Qwest workers face
For first time, union members to pay part of cost
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Qwest union employees will pay a portion of their health care
premiums for the first time in 2009, with costs ranging from $33
a month for individuals to $75 for family coverage, according to
a copy of the agreement.
Post-1990 retirees also will face premiums for the first time,
ranging from $75 a month for individual non-Medicare coverage to
as much as $408 a month for family coverage.
Pre-1991 retirees are protected from increased health care costs
by a legal agreement fashioned more than a decade ago.
The three-year labor agreement between Qwest and its two unions,
hammered out during the early hours of Aug. 18, still must be
ratified by 20,000 union workers. Voting is expected to be
completed by late September. Union workers are receiving a
9.37 percent wage increase over three years.
Officials with the Communications Workers of America, Qwest's
major union, indicated previously the agreement included
increased health care costs, but wouldn't disclose specific
details. Deductibles and copays also are going up.
The agreement reflects the times, with most companies across the
country now requiring employees to pay a portion of their
premiums. In fact, Qwest union employees are faring better
than most. Still, it's an added cost, especially for most
"It's not as devastating as it might have been, but if you're on
a fixed income it's worrisome," said Mimi Hull, president of the
Association of U S West Retirees.
She also noted those who took buyouts in recent years may be
looking at the $400-a-month premium for family coverage.
CWA officials have said the union achieved the best settlement
possible in light of the
telco's financial condition and rising health care costs.
"We were caught between," Al Kogler, CWA spokesman, said Friday.
"We think the permanent solution to the health care crisis is
going to be at the ballot box and not the bargaining table."
Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs characterized the health care
contributions by employees and retirees as modest.
"Broadly speaking, we were pleased to be able to work together
in confronting an issue that all businesses are confronting --
and that's rising health care costs," Toevs said.
The CWA bargaining committee said in a letter to its members
that Qwest has the 13th largest amount of retiree health
obligations among U.S. companies.
Qwest spent $672 million in 2006 to provide health care to
87,600 employees and retirees. Costs increased another 8.8
percent in 2007, according to the CWA.
Chipping in on health care
In 2009, Qwest union employees and post-1990 retirees will pay
for a portion of their health care premiums for the first time.
Deductibles and co-pays also will increase. Here's a look
at the premium costs:
* Employees: $33 a month for individuals, rising to $42 by
2011. $75 a month for family coverage, rising to $93 by 2011.
Annual deductibles for individuals will increase from $150 to
$200; for families from $300 to $400.
* Post-1990 retirees (non-Medicare): $75 a month for
individual coverage; $408 a month for family coverage. In 2010
and 2011, a formula will determine premiums.
* Qwest no longer will reimburse Medicare retirees from a
portion of their Medicare Part B premium. The standard
premium in 2008 was $96.40 a month for individuals with annual
incomes under $82,000.