Insurance Coverage Increases Put on Hold
LOWELL -- A 10-fold increase of life insurance coverage for certain school district employees has been postponed at least a year, according to Paul Georges, president of the United Teachers of Lowell.
The issue was put “aside for next year to look at other options” by mutual agreement of the union and School Committee, according to Mayor Bill Samaras. The agreement was negotiated in July.
“It was a good-faith effort by both parties to get that solved,” Georges said.
For close to three decades, life insurance policies for the teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians and cafeteria workers represented by UTL have held steady at $2,000, Georges said.
In June 2017, the district agreed to a union contract that would increase life insurance to $20,000. The increase was slated to take effect in the second year of the contract, which began this summer. The same contract also okayed nine percent raises for all workers over a three-year period.
When asked why the life insurance increase was put aside, Samaras mentioned the district’s finances.
“There’s a new School Committee and there’s a need to look at what we can and cannot afford,” he said.
The district currently faces a more than $1.6 million deficit, according to presentations by interim Assistant Superintendent of Finance Billie Jo Turner in August.
Samaras said he did not have an “exact figure” for how much money increasing the life insurance policies could cost the district. He said he could not comment on the details of the agreement, since these negotiations were discussed during executive session.
Insurance companies receive rate payments from the district’s budget. Life insurance, unlike sick leave, is not an unfunded liability.
According to Georges, during negotiations a city employee raised concerns regarding the legal implications of increasing life insurance coverage.
When asked, Human Relations Manager Mary Callery, who handles both life insurance for city and school employees, said she was not familiar with the outcome of the negotiations this summer.
Superintendent Jeannine Durkin provided the following statement when asked about life insurance for school employees.
“The district is reviewing UTL contract language regarding life insurance at this time,” she wrote in an email. “We are also currently in negotiations with the UTL relative these benefits for members.”
Georges said employees have been notified of the change. Independent of the district, teachers have a $10,000 accidental death coverage from the American Federation of Teachers, he said.
The agreement to delay the contracted increase, occurred before the School Committee voted 4-3 to place Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui on administrative leave.
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