Blue Cross Blue Shield and UAW negotiations are still ongoing

Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 6:56 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Workers from Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan stood together Monday outside their offices in downtown Lansing. Similar to the strike against the Big Three automakers, Charmaine Walker says members want better pay and benefits for all. She says a big issue is Blue Cross’s use of call centers outside of the country.

“I don’t think it’s fair for the customers to call into customer service and get someone over in the Philippines. Customers are frustrated,” said Walker.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan issued a statement to News 10 that says:

“On September 12, after weeks of continuous negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement, the United Auto Workers union walked away from the bargaining table and went on strike at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Blue Care Network is not included in this action by the union. Blue Cross has put contingencies in place to enable our company to continue to provide services to providers, group customers and our millions of members around the nation. Some of those services – particularly those provided over the phone – will require longer wait times. We encourage our members and customers to use our online and app-based services during this period, and we regret the inconvenience caused by this situation – which we desire to resolve quickly, consistent with the spirit of collective bargaining, with our partners at the UAW.”

Walker has worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield 25 years and says there are major differences in the company’s two-tiered system.

“They don’t get retiree health care, their sick days. They don’t get the pay; they don’t get a lot of the benefits as the tier one people.”

Alan Harris is vice president of Local 2256. As a trainer with Blue Cross Blue Shield, he says the challenge is keeping new employees even during the training process.

“They know this is a hard job, it’s not easy. We’re learning a lot of systems on computers, we’re turning these people into insurance experts,” said Harris.

Harris says an increase in starting pay could keep qualified candidates. Blue Cross Blue Shield and members of UAW Local 2256 met at the bargaining table Monday. Both sides say they expect to be back at negotiations on Tuesday and will continue until a bargaining agreement is reached.

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