Is a union contract a legal document or can owners just do what they want regardless of what the contract states?

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Is a union contract a legal document or can owners just do what they want regardless of what the contract states?

The contract clearly states that our health benefits cannot change for the life of the contract. If it does, the benefits and cost to the employees must stay the same. Can the owner change health benefit coverage to save money for himself if it costs the employees substantially more. As well as deny coverage for spouses who can get insured through their own employer, this costing even more for certain families. I work for a union shop and our contract expires next year.

Asked on December 29, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A union contract IS a legal document--it is a contract. It can be enforced by the union workers against management. Therefore, during the term of the contract, management has to provide whatever benefits, etc. the contract calls for, unless and only to the extent the contract itself allows management to make changes (e.g. to pass along cost increases). However, it is important to bear in mind that contracts are enforced only as per their actual terms; so, for exmple, say that the contract indicates that the employer must provide health insurance for the staff, but does not specify a maximum premium and/or copay the employees would have to pay. In that event, the employer could change coverage to save itself money, even if that costs the employees more, too--since the contract does not address this issue or limit the employer's ability to do this. Similarly, since it is very common for employee spouses to not be allowed employer-provided family coverage if they have insurance available through their own job, it could easily be the case that this is legal, too.

Therefore, the only way to know exactly what the employer can and cannot do is to review the union contract in detail.


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