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OPINION | Barry Richard: Council Should Show Leadership On Insurance Issue

New Bedford City Hall/City of New Bedford
New Bedford City Hall/City of New Bedford

The New Bedford City Council recently rejected an attempt by the Mitchell Administration to renegotiate insurance coverage for the city’s contract employees.  Under a law enacted by the legislature several years ago communities can renegotiate with the labor unions.  Any impasse would be resolved through binding arbitration.

Communities through out the Commonwealth have adopted the procedure but not New Bedford.   Fall River saved taxpayers an estimated 3 million dollars in the first year alone.

Councilors argue that city workers deserve solid health care benefits and we agree.  State law provides protections that prevent more than 25 percent of health care costs from being passed on to employees.   Closing the door to the Administration to negotiate savings for taxpayers as health care costs continue to soar is irresponsible.

Recent City Council budget hearings resulted in miniscule reductions in spending on such things as employee cellphones and the like.  It was even suggested that 8 thousand dollars spent for the city to belong to the U.S. Conference of Mayors might be  wasteful spending.  Yet, provided with a real opportunity to potentially save millions annually in health care costs, the Council balked.

The Administration says it will resubmit the request to the Council again before November’s election.

Citizens interested in saving tax money should urge the Council to give the Mayor the authority that so many other municipal leaders in Massachusetts now have to renegotiate health insurance coverage with city workers.

Doing so shows leadership and real concern for taxpayer interests.

Editor’s Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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