Meeting Between Stoneham Selectmen and Retired Teachers Cancelled, Negotiations Between Town’s Labor Leaders And Town Manager Tentative

The meeting between the Stoneham Board of Selectmen and Stoneham’s retired teachers scheduled for April 22 was cancelled. This meeting was to be held for the purpose of withdrawing retired teachers from the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC).

Also, a Town Meeting article, which was to vote on enrolling all Stoneham employees and retirees in the GIC by a home rule petition to the Legislature, was withdrawn at the request of Board of Selectmen Chairman John DePinto. Mr. DePinto felt that the process for such legislation would be quite lengthy. Selectman Frank Vallarelli agreed with DePinto, saying it would likely take years before the Legislature would even consider the petition.

Vallarelli said DePinto was right in relying on the current process for joining the GIC to bring about the change faster, assuming that Stoneham’s collective bargaining units agree with the proposal.

The Public Employee Committee (PEC), which consists of one representative from each union, plus Stoneham retiree Bill Abbott representing retirees, must reach a 70% weighted vote inorder for Stoneham’s employees and retirees to be enrolled in the state’s GIC. Thus far,negotiations between the PEC and Town Manager David Ragucci have been stalled, but apparently they are scheduled to resume.

It has been reported that some labor unions have argued, that under the state GIC, it would cost municipal workers more for health insurance coverage, unions would lose their ability to negotiate copays and deductibles, and that major insurance providers, like Blue Cross Blue Shield, do not offer plans under the state pool.

A further issue lies just below the surface. There is a $170 annual trash fee for residents, which would be dropped if an agreement to join the state’s GIC is reached. Needless to say, this does nothing to allay the ever-increasing squeeze on the public sector, of which we are all aware.