It could be “deja vu all over again” for the city of Springfield as some aldermen question the legality of recent health insurance negotiations.
The city’s Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee has selected a new third party administrator for collective bargaining employees’ health plans, a selection that will likely carry over to non-union employees’ benefits. Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards doesn’t understand how that can happen, and said so to corporation counsel Mark Cullen.
“What I’m talking about is how non-union employees get included in a collective bargaining agreement,” said Edwards.
“They are not,” replied Cullen.
“Yeah they are, here it is,” Edwards shouted back, waving the Committee of the Whole agenda in the air. “If we don’t get [dragged] back into court I will be shocked. And I’m done.”
The city came under fire last year and faced a lawsuit after negotiating health benefits for couples in civil unions behind closed doors, violating the Open Meetings Act. The Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee was subsequently revamped to handle only collective bargaining issues.
Cullen, in an interview after the meeting, said the agreement affects union employees, but “it’s sensible for the city to have the same administrator for the same plan covering all of its employees.”
“I don’t think I’ll surprise you by saying this, but I don’t think they can do that,” says Springfield attorney Don Craven, who represented the plaintiff in the suit brought against the city last year.
Craven, too, wonders how a committee tasked with dealing with only collective bargaining matters can issue Requests for Proposals that will affect more than just union employees.
Cullen says the city council must approve the changes for non-union employees in open session.