State drops plan to raise health costs

Employee unions to get 2% cost-of-living raises

February 16, 2002|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has dropped a proposal to sharply increase how much state employees pay for health care, but the administration is holding firm to 2 percent cost-of-living pay raises.

Under a tentative deal reached this week with the union representing about 5,000 state professional employees, workers would receive 2 percent cost-of-living adjustments - but not until May 2003, 10 months after the contract goes into effect.

The largest state union - representing 35,000 other Maryland workers - is still negotiating. But a proposal for large increases in those employees' health care premiums also has apparently been dropped.

The two-year agreement reached with the Maryland Professional Employees Council calls not only for a delay in the cost-of-living raises, but in workers' annual merit increases. They would be postponed by four months.

George Myers, president of the council, said members are pleased to avoid any increase in their share of health care premiums.

The administration's original proposal had called for employees to pay up to 33 percent of the costs - an increase from 15 to 20 percent.

"That was the biggest thing for us, because our employees would have had to pay 25 percent more in real dollars," Myers said. The deal still calls for employees to pay more for prescription drugs.

Pay increases for the second year of the deal would be negotiated next year.

The agreement must be ratified by the full union membership in a vote that will likely happen next month.

But the council's agreement isn't satisfactory to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 35,000 state workers.

That union - which held a rally Jan. 28 protesting the administration's health care proposal and has another planned Monday - objects to the delays of pay raises, said Sue Esty, AFSCME's legislative director.

It also is fighting a pay-for-performance plan that would tie raises to job evaluations.

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