Open forum on unions’ health insurance is set

By Jesse Roman, The Salem News

The City Council is holding a special meeting tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall to consider whether to adopt new state legislation that would restrict city unions’ bargaining rights on health care.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt has met three times this month with a coalition of union leaders to try to hash out a cost-saving plan that makes sense for the city and the unions. If such a compromise were reached, the mayor has said, adopting the legislation would not be necessary.

But while details of the negotiations have been kept under wraps, as of Friday, the mayor still planned to move forward with the special meeting to consider the health care legislation. The most recent meeting with unions was last Thursday.

The law, passed by the Massachusetts Legislature last summer, gives cities and towns much broader power in negotiating with unions and saves money for taxpayers by shifting some health insurance costs onto employees in the form of higher copays and deductibles.

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