Weds news roundup: Union deals and paper

Photo: David McDermott, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: David McDermott, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Hi! Since this is one of my first days back from the vacation you may or may not have noticed I took in the last few weeks, I’d like to say that I heartily regret that I wasn’t during this year’s Lake George Elvis Festival, which ended Sunday.  I love me some Elvis (and some Elvis love) and I seem to be away every year.

But moving on. What else is going on in the North Country today? Well, SUNY and the union that represents more than 35,000 of its white-collar employees have reached an agreement. They’ve been working without a contract since 2011, and the agreement passed with 77 percent of those who cast ballots voting yes.

North Country Now reports that SUNY’s new contract with the UUP (United University Professions) won’t give said professionals a raise this year, but they’ll get two percent increases in 2014 and 2015; they’ll pay more for health insurance and be able to opt out if they’d rather be covered by a partner’s health insurance; and they’ll receive lump sum payments of a few hundred dollars.

In other labor news, Lewis County legislators approved a four-year contract with more than 500 workers at the municipal hospital. The deal between the county and the Civil Service Employees Organization (CSEA) and the county came after about two years of negotiations, the Watertown Daily Times reports. CSEA workers have been working without a contract since January of 2012, and while they won’t get a salary increase for this or last year, they’ll get two percent increases in 2014 and 2015. Lots more detail in the article.

And from the “no kidding, really?” file, the Glens Falls Post Star reports that Glens Falls-based company Finch Paper, which employes about 650 people at its plant, isn’t happy about a proposed law that would, among other things, allow drug providers to provide prescription information electronically rather than on paper. The Safeguarding America’s Pharmaceuticals Act of 2013 passed the US House overwhelmingly on Monday in a voice vote.

The paper manufacturer reached out to North Country reps Chris Gibson and Bill Owens before the vote, asking them to oppose the bill. In a statement, the paper quotes Finch Paper President and CEO Deba Mukherjee as saying:

There are a number of problems with this bill, and we hope our congressional representatives will take prompt action to correct them…By eliminating the use of paper for these vital health care communications, the bill will take away a key source of business for the printing paper industry.

What’s more, the bill will force senior citizens and everyone else to seek out vital information about their prescriptions online, even if they are not comfortable using the Internet or have poor or no Internet service.

FYI, the bill does require that printed instructions be provided to patients if they ask for them. Chris Gibson didn’t return the paper’s calls for comment, and Owens wasn’t there for the vote but says he’d like to see the part of the bill Finch is objecting to be removed. The version of the bill apparently doesn’t contain the language.

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