July 18, 2011
By Stephanie West
On Wednesday, July 13, 2011 the 390 Health Now New York, Inc., dba Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Western New York (BCBS of WNY) unionized workers, who have been locked out for 12 weeks since April 26, 2011, ratified a tentative three-year agreement reached by the parties on Friday, July 8, 2011.
A major point of contention was the Company’s demand to remove job security protection provisions from the contract resulting from subcontracting. The new agreement provides that such protection will continue for all 390 locked out workers. The Union also achieved wage increases of 5% over the life of the agreement, a $2,500 lump sum bonus, and made no concessions to the benefit package and working conditions currently provided to Local 212 bargaining unit employees.
“We are very pleased that the parties were able to reach an agreement through the process of collective bargaining, demonstrating that mutual agreement trumps unilateral action,” said OPEIU International President Michael Goodwin.
Since the beginning of the lockout, OPEIU Local 212 members maintained a highly visible community presence. Local 212 was greatly assisted by the International Union (OPEIU), which provided staff, financial support, and a grassroots community organizing campaign. With the assistance of the New York State AFL-CIO, the Buffalo area labor community and a local coalition of the clergy, Local 212 members maintained a strong picket line, held public demonstrations, prayer vigils, gathered petitions and letters of support from the local Buffalo community at public venues and events.
“On behalf of Local 212 members, I would like to thank everyone in the labor movement, the clergy and the community for all the support and encouragement they gave us during this difficult struggle. As you go through such a protracted experience, it is uplifting to know that the community in which you live, work and worship really cares about you.” said Business Representative Deana Fox.
On August 1, 2011, Local 212 workers will return to work following a negotiated Company paid two week’s vacation.