Washington state, unions reach impasses over health care

Washington state, unions reach impasses over health care

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Unions representing state workers and state officials reached an impasse on Friday over health care costs in the latest contract negotiations, the governor's office said.

But under state law, health care coverage from the previous contract will carry over to 2014 because both sides didn't reach an agreement, officials said.

The state has been negotiating with more than two dozen unions since May and had reached tentative agreements on pay with all of them, said Stan Marshburn, state budget director.

"The health care component is a separate contract from the economic and non-economic terms of contract," Marshburn said.

The unions wanted a guarantee that the state would continue to pay 85 percent of premium costs.

The state wants the option of changing the premium split based on rising costs or increased usage. The state wants to start its contribution rate at $825 a month per employee. But the unions see cost uncertainty for the state workers in that proposal.

The current health care agreement says the state pays 85 percent of "the total weighted average of the projected health care premium costs per employee," officials said.

Concerning pay, aside from the restoration of the 3 percent pay cut, the tentative agreement also restores a step increase of 2.5 percent for more than 29,000 employees. That step increase was agreed to in 2008, but was deferred until 2011 for implementation. However, due to budget concerns that year, the state negotiated another deferral until the next budget cycle that begins July 2013.

The two-year contract would also promise the possibility of a 1 percent raise in the second year of the contract for all state employees if state revenue rebounds faster than expected.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.