No.

The collective agreements binding all major companies and all me-too companies requires that all employees will be covered for their benefits through the industry wide plans.

The language in these collective agreements includes the following:

“The following coverage will be instituted on an Industry-wide basis with a common carrier”
“Participation in the Plan is to be a condition of employment”

There are several reasons why there is an industry wide approach to providing benefits.

1. By utilizing a joint trust approach for health and welfare and life insurance, both union and management trustees have oversight to ensure that the coverages contained in the collective agreement are actually provided.

2.The collective agreement provides that coverage will be portable for employees who are covered and change employers within the industry and there is to be no waiting period with the second employer. This portability feature is not possible if there are multiple insurers.

3.There is much interplay between the USW Coastal Forest Benefit Plan (short-term disability) and the IWA Forest Industry LTD Plan that affects disabled employees. Rehabilitation services provided to disabled employees depend on efficient transmittal of information from the short-term plan which facilitates early intervention. This is very difficult to achieve with more than one short term provider.

4.Laid off employees under the collective agreements are entitled to layoff coverage. The industry short term carrier monitors and helps administer this feature. Alternate insurers do not provide this service.

5..There are economies of scale in having one large plan—this results in lower premiums. The industry wide plans are Administrative Services Only (ASO) Plans as opposed to Insured Plans. (ASO plans are only available to large groups.) This means that the Industry plans pay only for the actual experience plus an amount for administration by the carrier. An Insured Plan charges for anticipated experience, administration, plus a “risk premium” which results in a higher total cost for the insurance.

We understand that, in the past, the USW has sometimes allowed small employers to ignore the language in the collective agreement leading to some providing coverage through alternate insurers. To our knowledge, this alternate benefit coverage generally does not match the coverage levels required by the collective agreement. We understand that the USW policy has changed to require strict adherence to the collective agreement. This requires employee enrollment in the industry wide plans.

 

 

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