Board implements health plan; union may sue

THREE RIVERS, Mich. - Three Rivers school board members have voted to switch teachers to a different health insurance plan as a way to save money, but the teachers union may go to court to block the move, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette.

The district and its teachers have been in contract negotiations since August 2007, The Gazette reported. Considering the sides to be at impasse, the board voted to implement contract provisions that would shift teachers to a less-expensive plan than the Michigan Education Special Services Association policy that teachers now have, according to The Gazette.

"We have to control our costs," Superintendent Roger Rathburn told The Gazette. He said the district could save hundreds of thousands of dollars by switching to comparable insurance at a lower rate.

But Denise Munoz-Pyle, an employee of the Michigan Education Association, says the union thinks the vote could be considered an unfair labor practice and the MEA may ask a judge to block it.

"We should at least keep the status quo through the fact-finding process," Munoz-Pyle told The Gazette. She said union members are committed to MESSA and that they have not been provided adequate information about alternatives.

Three Rivers pays $14,704 per teacher for insurance, regardless of family size, The Gazette reported, including medical, dental, life and disability coverage. Teachers contribute $24 per month toward the premium.

Rathburn says the district offered to continue buying MESSA if teachers would pay 8 percent of the premium out of pocket, switch to a higher-deductible drug plan and agree to a 1 percent raise.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, "Three Rivers school board switches teachers' insurance; Union may try to block change," Jan. 15, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Health insurance: Reformed, but not resolved," Sept. 16, 2008