Strike Averted

Union contract settled

Vicky Newman: News-Herald

The Loudon Utilities Board started a new fiscal year July 1 with a new three-year contract agreement with IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 760. The contract, which affects only the city's utility workers, provides for increased health insurance deductibles, higher insurance co-pays and greater out-of-pocket allowables.

Lynn Mills, LUB manager, said the agreement came at the eleventh hour. "We settled it yesterday, by mutual agreement," he said Friday of the contract that had been slated to expire at midnight Thursday.

Contract negotiations had begun in mid-May, with the parties unable to come to an agreement on health insurance and salary issues.

"The overriding factor in our negotiations was the continued escalation of medical costs," Mills said. "We were able to get changes in the coverage to help us."

Under the new plan, insurance deductibles will go from $250 to $1,000, and out-of-pockets costs allowed will increase from $900 per person to $1,500 per person.

The city's self-funded insurance plan has been a factor needing to be addressed for some time. "The deductible and out-of-pocket allowed has not changed in many years, and we had to find some way to reduce costs," Mills said. "A lot of companies charge $1,000 to $1,600."

The agreement also includes a 1 percent salary increase for LUB workers.

According to Mills, the changes in coverage should have an overall positive impact on the utilities budget.

"Everything is going to be back to normal," Mills said. "I am really tired of putting in long hours and burning the midnight oil."