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OPEIU & BlueCross BlueShield Of WNY Reach Tentative Agreement On Two-Year Contract Extension That Impacts 440 Union-Represented Workers Employed By The Buffalo-Headquartered Health Insurer

Published Monday, August 1, 2016

(BUFFALO) – BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York (BCBSWNY), the only Buffalo-based health insurer with a local Union-represented workforce, has reached a tentative two-year agreement on a contract extension with Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153, Union Representative Robert McLennan and President and CEO David Anderson announced today (Monday, August 1st).

The 440 Members of the OPEIU Bargaining Unit will vote this Saturday (August 6th) on the tentative agreement that was reached by members of the Union’s leadership and company management to extend the current contract through April 25th, 2019 - and to do so without protracted bargaining, both parties announced.  

BlueCross BlueShield reached a new three-year collective bargaining agreement on April 27th, 2014 with its Employees who are represented by Local 153.

Labor relations at the region’s leading health plan are said to be at a new high point, with trust, respect and mutually aligned goals reflected in the decision to proceed with a contract extension over eight months prior to the expiration of the present Collective Bargaining Agreement, Union and management representatives said in a distributed press release.  

The announcement comes almost three years to the day of Anderson’s arrival at Blue Cross BlueShield of Western New York and his pledge to focus on Employee engagement and leveraging Labor Relations to grow the regional health plan’s business relationships.

When ratified, the contract extension will provide Labor and management with the ability to focus on company goals and prepare for the open enrollment period at year-end, Union and company officials said.  

The contract also provides for annual wage increases and maintains current benefit offerings enjoyed by Employees, the press release said.    

“Since our contract agreement with BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York in 2014, we've added well over one hundred jobs to the Local Bargaining Unit at BCBSWNY,” OPEIU’s McLennan said in the release.  “This contract extension is ‘good’ for the Buffalo and Western New York Labor Community and Downtown Buffalo.  Our Members continue to receive ‘solid’ wages and benefits and we want to ‘help the company continue to grow and add even more Union Jobs’ in Western New York.” 

OPEIU National President Richard Lanigan said: “This agreement is ‘great news’ for both our Members and for BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York.  I ‘congratulate’ our Bargaining Committee on their ‘success’ in achieving this ‘excellent’ contract extension and OPEIU ‘looks forward to working together with BCBSWNY in the years ahead.’”

Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF) President Richard Lipsitz said: “We’re ‘very pleased’ to hear about the tentative agreement on a two-year extension between OPEIU Local 153 and BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York.  This is ‘proof’ of the ‘continuing excellent Labor Relations’ at BlueCross BlueShield.  This is the ‘kind of relationship we need’ in Western New York.  It highlights a ‘better economic future for us all.’”

OPEIU Local 153 represents more than 16,000 of the national Union’s 103,000 Members in the States of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.  Local 153 represents 440 Employees at BCBSWNY and independent contractors in administrative offices, credit unions, hospitals and medical clinics, insurance, higher education, transportation, shipping, utilities, hotels and more here in Western New York.        

BCBSWNY President & CEO Anderson said: “The Employees represented by Local 153 are ‘brand ambassadors’ for BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York.  They’re ‘on our front line’ in good-paying, high-benefit jobs in our customer service and administrative areas where we’re seeing growth.  I’m ‘pleased’ Labor provided this opportunity and that our management team has achieved a ‘remarkable milestone’ in this company’s Labor Relations.”

BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, which is a division of HealthNow New York Incorporated, is the region’s largest health insurer with 1,900 Employees in five locations, serving more than 800,000 members.  It is the only health insurance provider in the region with a Unionized Workforce and has a 60-year relationship with OPEIU.

BlueCross BlueShield provides health care services and innovative funding arrangements.  It maintains an outstanding reputation for services and an unwavering commitment to member satisfaction as a community-based, not-for-profit health plan.

The company opened its new Buffalo waterfront headquarters - which was built under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that employed Members from all 18 Buffalo Building Trades and Construction Council Unions - in August 2007.  The $110 million project incorporated one of the most extensive brownfield remediation in New York State.  Today, it brings over 1,900 people to the heart of Buffalo each day and has an estimated annual economic impact of $4 billion.


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