Contrary to Blues chief, clients need few perksHow come I...

WORKPLACE & CAREERS

October 02, 1992|By Kim Clark

Contrary to Blues chief, clients need few perks

How come I wasn't invited?

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland President Carl J. Sardegna told a U.S. Senate subcommittee last week that he had to offer corporate executives perks, like Orioles tickets and even Olympics trips, to compete in the local health insurance market.

But some local benefits managers say that although there is competition for their business, they don't have to be wined and dined to consider a new insurer.

Stephen Lohman, human resources director for C.J. Langenfelder & Son Inc., for example, said he hasn't been invited to a single insurer's sky box, and jokes that he's miffed.

With 400 workers, the Baltimore-based construction firm is one of the city's bigger employers. But Mr. Lohman says the insurers compete on price and service; "they don't compete with perks" to managers like him.

Don Hillier, senior vice president for corporate human resources at MNC Financial Inc., says he gets plenty of cold calls from salespeople offering "niche products," such as a new health maintenance organization or prescription service.

But the big insurers who might serve the bank's entire 8,000-employee health insurance contract don't market to him very aggressively, he said.

Instead, picking someone to administer the company's health insurance plan is kind of dull. MNC sends requests for proposals to about a dozen big health insurers and administrators once every four or five years, and it takes months to wade through the inches-thick responses, he said.

He hasn't been invited out to meals or sports events by insurers, and would feel uncomfortable accepting gifts from them, he said.

But Mr. Hillier understands why insurers might feel obliged to offer perks to customers.

"Every company, including ours, has a marketing department. . . . Everybody does it."

Fewer Americans saving for retirement

The number of Americans saving for their retirement continues to decline.

A Gallup Organization poll found that 63 percent of non-retired Americans are saving for their retirement in 1992, down from 69 percent in 1990.

What's more, those who are saving are starting later.

The average age at which people start saving is now 32, up one year from 1991's average.

Ship navigators' union facing leadership fight

The folks who pilot U.S-flagged ships are debating whether to change direction.

The International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P) union has mailed out ballots to its 7,000 far-flung members for a hotly contested leadership election.

The Linthicum Heights-based union, which represents officers on all U.S.-flagged ships around the world, will accept mailed ballots through Dec. 31.

The 1988 MM&P leadership election was thrown out because of ballot fraud by some members in Panama.

A second balloting, overseen by the U.S. Labor Department, gave the top two spots to challengers who ran as reformers.

But since then, the union president, Timothy A. Brown, and the secretary-treasurer, James T. Hopkins, have had run-ins with the union's executive board members, most of whom were allied with the previous president.

Mr. Brown tried to replace the union's attorney with his own lawyer, but the board stopped him. So he hired his attorney as a $78,000-a-year-clerk. The board then fired the "clerk."

Now, Mr. Brown says he is asking the members to elect an entire reform slate to end the bickering.

He says he wants the union to start building bridges with other maritime unions. And he says he wants to put the union's finances in order by reducing staff in ports that no longer get many ships.

John K. Bobb, academic director of the Maritime Institution of Technology and Graduate Studies, is part of the slate opposing Mr. Brown, and a supporter of the previous president.

Mr. Bobb says he, too, wants to stop the infighting. He charges that the two new leaders have cost the union $500,000 in unnecessary legal and other costs.

Mr. Bobb discounts Mr. Brown's claim to be a reformer. The Labor Department investigation of the 1988 fraud found no evidence of a pattern of corruption, he said.

He says he wants to prepare the union for 1997, when the last lTC U.S. subsidies for U.S.-flagged ships will expire, and many companies may shift their flags to countries with lower costs.

"This is a very contentious election because of the uncertain future," Mr. Bobb said.

Many couples have 1 spouse on night shift

Many American parents work night shifts, while some in other countries are banned from them.

One third of all American working couples with children have at least one spouse who works evenings or nights. Single parents here are also likely to work unusual shifts.

In a demographic study of shift workers, the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment found that women, for example, were more likely to work evening shifts.

The study found, however, that most shift workers dislike the schedules. More than three out of four said they would rather work 9 to 5.

Manpower Inc., the temporary services agency, reports that in Austria laws ban women from taking most night jobs. The laws there are supported by trade unions that say night shifts are bad for families.

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