detroit — Leaders of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the United Auto Workers reached a “verbal agreement” Tuesday on a new contract, potentially ending a 77-day strike by 1,300 unionized call center and processing workers. claims.
Phone calls between BCBSM CEO Daniel Loepp and UAW President Shawn Fain over the past few weeks produced a “verbal agreement” between the two leaders for the establishment of a collective bargaining agreement, Blue Cross said Tuesday. at night.
The tentative agreement includes “significant across-the-board salary increases,” a $6,500 signing bonus for Blue Cross Blue Shield employees and a $5,000 signing bonus for BCBSM’s Blue Care Network HMO employees, according to the UAW.
The strike focused, in part, on a pay scale system that required employees to work for 22 years before earning the highest wages. The tentative agreement would shorten that period to five years, according to the UAW.
“Wage progression and job security were concerns we knew we had to address during this round of negotiations,” UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock said in a statement Tuesday.
Bargaining teams from the union and the Detroit-based health insurer were expected to formalize and ratify the agreements in a new collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday, according to Blue Cross.
UAW members will remain on strike until the contract is ratified by members, the union said.
“Chairman Fain and I have agreed in principle to build a new collective bargaining agreement that would provide important income and job security for our unionized workforce,” Loepp said Tuesday in a statement. “On Wednesday, our negotiating teams will meet to formalize our agreement, bringing our employees one step closer to returning to work.”
The announcement of a deal comes more than two months after nearly 1,300 BCBSM employees represented by the UAW walked off the job on Sept. 13 after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract for unionized employees across the country. the state.
The strike included BCBSM employees who work in call centers and claims processing. Striking workers have said they want to stop the continued outsourcing of their jobs, unfair labor practices and the pay disparity between veteran employees and younger workers.
Mock, who heads the union’s Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department, said the tentative agreement contains new protections against outsourcing during the life of the new contract.
“Wage progression and job security were concerns we knew we had to address during this round of negotiations,” Mock said. “Twenty-two years to reach the maximum salary is unacceptable. Thanks to the solidarity of our members on the picket lines and the hard work of our negotiators at the negotiating table, we were able to address many of our demands.”
Tina Gates, president of UAW Local 1781, which represents striking Blue Cross employees, has said the health insurer reduced its ranks from as many as 5,000 workers to 1,300 over years of outsourcing work.
“Over the years, we’ve lost a lot of work. They took our work and gave it to outside contractors,” Gates said in mid-September, when BCBSM employees went on strike. “At one point we were over 4,000, 5,000 people (in the union) statewide. Now we have 1,300 people. So we’re tired of bleeding. We’re tired of having our jobs taken away.”
The union raised the issue of the Blue Cross CEO’s salary throughout the strike.
Loepp received $15.6 million in total compensation in 2021 on a base salary of $1.6 million, according to Crain’s business in Detroit.
The Blue Cross UAW strike in mid-September began two days before the auto workers union could begin striking against the three Detroit automakers. The three UAW contracts with Stellantis NV, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. expired at 11:59 p.m. on September 14.
Earlier this month, auto workers union members ratified contracts with the Detroit Three, ending nearly 10 weeks of work stoppages at select plants.
Further:Agreements approved by the UAW mark a reshaped union
Aside from BCBSM, union officials have said the contract for UAW members on BCBSM’s Blue Care Network expires Dec. 15.
“I congratulate and thank Chairman Fain for reaching out and working directly with me to get us to the starting line of the ratification process,” Loepp said.
If ratified, the contract will cover approximately 1,300 UAW members from Locals 2500 and 1781 in Detroit, Locals 2145 in Grand Rapids and 2256 in Lansing, UAW officials said.
Staff writers Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger contributed.