Thursday, October 2, 2003

Miami U. to keep all benefits for striking workers



By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OXFORD - Miami University officials decided Wednesday to continue health care insurance, dental coverage and other benefits of striking support staff through October.

"We wrestled with this issue because the practice of other universities has been to deny benefits to strikers," said Richard Norman, vice president for finance and business affairs, citing University of Cincinnati's decision in 1993 to cancel striking faculty members' benefits.

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 209 went on strike since Friday after they rejected the university's most recent contract offer.

Benefits provided on the first of the month would apply to the employees through Oct. 31, Miami officials said, so the institution had to decide Wednesday whether to cancel coverage.

"The law says strikers are not entitled to these benefits, and those who are not working made a conscious decision to go out on strike and could face the consequences of such actions," Norman said.

"However, we realize the hardship of the loss of benefits for employees who are already going without a paycheck," he said.

"Losing benefits would mean either that the employees would have to pay hundreds of dollars out of their own pocket to provide for themselves and their families or take the great risk of going without insurance."

Local 209 president Randy Marcum was surprised by the university's announcement. "I think a lot more people will stick it out and maybe we can bring some more people back out," Marcum said.

Miami officials said canceling coverage would mean that a striking worker with a family would begin paying about $750 a month for family health insurance and additional money for other benefits. The university is self-insured for health care, so the institution will pay for an employee's coverage for October.

If the strike goes beyond Oct. 31, Miami's administration will re-examine the issue.

"We are hopeful that the strike will be over well before we have to make that decision," Norman said.

Jon Gambrell contributed to this report. E-mail kgoetz@enquirer.com




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