HOLLIDAYSBURG - A group of Blair County union employees will get a 3.5 percent raise this year but pay more for health insurance.
Blair County Personnel Director Dianne Carland announced Tuesday that arbitrator Michael Zobrak, who conducted a hearing last week to review the stalemate, had issued a decision.
The 238 court and court-related employees affiliated with the United Mine Workers of America will receive the raise retroactive to Jan. 1, Carland said. Their cost toward health insurance will increase, she added, and for the first time, prescription costs will be based on a maximum 31-day supply, rather than 100 days.
Zobrak's decision spells out that the in-network deductible will be $250, an increase of $100, and that each employee will pay $7 more a month toward the premium, with 2009 monthly contributions set at $36 for singles, $83 for husband/ wife or employee/children and $98 for a family plan.
Commissioners said they were satisfied with the decision because it mirrors the tentative agreement that negotiators reached in December. Union members, however, recently voted down the tentative agreement and asked for arbitration.
''We wanted to keep the 100-day supply for prescriptions,'' said union member and former officer Marge Sorge who works in the county's cost and fines office. ''That's going to hurt some of us a lot ... but I am thankful that he came through with the 3 percent raise.''
When building the 2009 budget, commissioners included a 3 percent increase in salary lines for union and nonunion employees who went without pay raises in 2008. In January, commissioners voted in favor of a 3 percent raise for nonunion employees.
Commissioner Diane Meling said the cost of paying an additional one-half percent for the union employees should be offset by employees' contributions toward health insurance.
''We are still trying to live within our means,'' she said.
In his ruling, Zobrak said he considered reducing the raise to 3 percent and retaining the 2008 health insurance provisions. The decision to choose the other option, he said, was based on ''providing the greater benefit to the most employees.''
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.