CU, Labor Union Settle Strike Over Health Care

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A compromise on health care benefits helped end a two-week work stoppage by the union representing member service and call center representatives at Philadelphia FCU last week.

"Everything's back to normal and everyone's back at work," said Karen Eavis, a spokesperson for the credit union after rank and file members of the Local 32 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union unanimously voted to ratify the new contract proposal last Tuesday.

The union members went out April 10 on what would become a 13-day picket of the credit union's seven city locations after negotiations broke down over health care contributions by the credit union. The credit union, faced with a 36% increase in premiums for its preferred provider, Independence Blue Cross/Blue Shield, proposed passing on some of the increase to its employees. Under the old contract the credit union had paid all of health care costs for its employees.

But the union, claiming it would amount to hundreds of dollars in monthly costs to some employees, balked and went out on strike.

Under the new pact, employees will be given the option of the preferred provider or Keystone HMO, a health maintenance organization also owned by Independence Blue Cross/Blue Shield, at a lower cost. Employees contributions will be frozen during the two-and-a-half year life of the contract. And the credit union will provide each worker with a $450 stipend to help defray the costs.

"The cap and the contribution and the cost of coverage, that's really what settled it," said Patrick Tully, head of the local, which, ironically, represents New Jersey Blue Cross/Blue Shield workers.

The contract will also provide the 104 employees covered, half the credit union's workforce, with 3% raises for each of the first two years of the pact, and 2% plus a Philadelphia-area cost-of-living increase for the third year.

As part of the agreement, the union will also drop its unfair labor practices charges it lodged against the credit union with the National Labor Relations Board.

'Pressure' On Credit Union

Tully credited sympathy pickets from other union locals with helping to pressure PFCU, which includes among its FOM a number of labor unions, with coming to a final compromise. "They put a tremendous amount of pressure on the employer. Most of the people that are in the credit union are union members."

"The amazing thing is, how do you win a strike when half of your people are working," said Tully, noting that dozens of the union members chose to cross the picket lines.

Tully, who will hand over the reigns of the local to his son, Stephen, on May 1, said this is the first strike the local has engaged in during the 23 years he has headed it.

Ironically, it was another father and son team that headed the union, the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1776, that struck Pennsylvania State Employees CU just down the road in Harrisburg, Pa., a few years ago.

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