Retirees may have fared best under the new agreement. Those former clerks and meatcutters over 65 years of age will also have to contribute out of pocket as there is no longer a 100 percent deductible provision. And for those under 65, there will be no changes from the previous plan for the first two years of the pact.
However, in November 2015, many retirees under age 65 will receive a $350 monthly stipend from the healthcare fund. In the event a retiree receiving the payment dies prior to becoming Medicare eligible, the surviving spouse will receive monthly cash payment of $200 until he or she becomes Medicare eligible. If the ACA is repealed, the $350 per month amount will increase to $600 and the $200 will increase to $350. Upon reaching age 65 or otherwise being eligible for Medicare, a retiree or spouse receiving such payments shall be given a one-time option to elect medical coverage supplemental to Medicare under the current plan. If, at any time, a Medicare eligible retiree opts not to take fund retiree coverage, the retiree is ineligible for fund retiree coverage from that point forward.
The employers will also contribute $180,000 a year to the fund by each January 1 (the first year’s payment due by January 31) of this agreement for the purpose of hiring staff and/or a consultant or similar entity to provide guidance to employees in deciding how to obtain the appropriate health coverage.
As part of complying with the ACA, all associates will see annual limits (caps) on essential health benefits be eliminated; all pre-existing condition exclusions on non-excepted benefits will also be eliminated; coverage for dependent children will be extended to 26 years of age; coverage for all clinical trials will be included; all required ACA fees will be paid by the fund; waiting periods will be established for plans allowing employers to avoid employer mandate penalties, but will not exceed those in effect in 2013; coverage will meet affordability and minimum value requirements to satisfy the employer mandate.
“This is one of the best retail food contracts in the country,” said Local 400 president Mark P. Federici. “Unlike many other agreements, our members will keep their current health care benefits and won’t be forced onto the inferior plans offered through the ACA’s health care exchanges. Giant and Safeway will pay all benefits in full through the life of the contract and our members’ pensions will be properly funded. In addition, the collective bargaining agreement increases our members’ standard of living, and it’s one of the few contracts in the country providing all of its economic benefits in the form of hourly wage increases rather than a one-time bonus.”
Prior to the new contact being ratified, Federici stated: “Like virtually all negotiations taking place around the country today, the number one obstacle to reaching agreement is the impact of the Affordable Care Act on multi-employer Taft-Hartley funds, like the one that provides health coverage to our members at Giant and Safeway. Between this and the pervasiveness of corporate greed, virtually all bargaining in our industry across the country has resulted in lengthy delays and extensions. I am deeply grateful for our members’ patience and solidarity.
They should rest assured that we will work tenaciously to secure a new collective bargaining agreement that provides them with the security, respect and dignity they have more than earned.”
“We are very pleased our associates voted to approve new labor contracts that will bring stability and security to them and their families for the next three years,” said Giant spokesman Jamie Miller. “Throughout negotiations, our goal was to reach fair and reasonable contracts that respect our legacy and honor our associates’ contributions, while also recognizing our competitive realities.”
New Safeway eastern division president Brian Baer said, “The contract continues to provide our employees with excellent wages and benefits while also allowing Safeway to remain competitive in the local retail food market.”