The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

February 1, 2013

Unions’ actions commendable

Worked with city to lower health care costs

— A $158,000 savings for the financially strapped city of Johnstown – and its taxpayers – is nothing to sneeze it.

That’s the amount city leaders say they were able to pare from rising employee health care costs with help from three of its unions.

We commend all parties involved for sitting down and working through this important matter.

The arrangement is in place for one year. City officials will explore their options again for 2014.

“The city will be actively pursuing all avenues to try to keep the health care costs under control, as it is one of the largest expenditures that the city has now,” City Manager Kristen Denne said. 

She added that “I would like to commend the employees that helped the city make these types of savings.”

That would be members of the Fraternal Order of Police; United Steelworkers of America – workers at the sewage treatment plant; and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – public works staff and nonuniformed personnel.

The firefighters and city attempted to negotiate a deal, but could not come to an agreement on certain out-of-network costs. Hopefully, 2014 will bring better results.

While the unions have not always been in agreeable moods, overall they have recognized the financial plight of the city and have worked together where plausible.

Through the years, contracts have been signed with minimal pay increases or wage freezes. Past health care plans have seen increased deductibles and co-payments.

No government official likes to deal with employee layoffs or slashed services for residents. Unfortunately, city leaders have been forced into both as they work with shrinking revenues.

But it’s not just their problem to solve. It concerns residents and workers alike, as well as those who operate businesses in the city.

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