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SPPS Rejects Union Proposal for Unbudgeted Health Care Contribution

Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) today rejected a proposal by members of Saint Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) and Minnesota Teamsters 320 that would have cost the district $3.6 million in new healthcare contributions in exchange for unions suspending their push to break a health insurance contract with HealthPartners.

"SPFE and the Teamsters voted to take action that would break the district's contract with HealthPartners, which would cost SPPS a $4 million early termination fee and force a 22-percent increase in health premiums onto all other SPPS employees," says Dr. Joe Gothard. "Though the contract with HealthPartners is maintained under the proposal, it would have reimbursed those affected employees health insurance costs, and those funds have not been budgeted."

Neither the $4 million early termination fee nor the $3.6 million in increased contributions demanded by the unions in order to avoid that fee are in the current SPPS budget. This, less than nine months after voters of Saint Paul approved a referendum adding approximately $17 million to the District's budget.

Dr. Gothard did propose, again, a solution to this situation; one that would protect students and taxpayers and enable SPFE and the Teamsters to choose whichever health insurance plan they want: Delay moving away from the current contract with HealthPartners until the contract expires in 12 months.

"Unions have the right under law to choose a health insurer, and we respect and support that right," says Dr. Gothard. "However, that right must be exercised within the process established by statute and consistent with any existing health insurance contracts. My main responsibility - and that of our school board - is to our students and our community. By confirming with the unions that the School District will facilitate a smooth and cooperative transition for their memberships into PEIP in January 2021, the School District will be able to honor all of its statutory and contractual commitments."

Under Minnesota statutes, SPFE and the Teamsters can vote to leave the district's health plan, however, there is no language dictating when that change has to occur.

SPPS is currently negotiating a new contract with SPFE, which represents approximately 4,200 of the district's 6,000 employees. The current contract expired on June 30, 2019.

"We have no intention of negotiating outside of the collective bargaining process," says Dr. Gothard. "Our commitment is to work for the good of all of our employees, not just some of them."
 
On Aug. 16, the following letters were sent by the District to union leadership:

Updates regarding health insurance for SPPS employees available here.