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Blue Cross Blue Shield locks out some of its workers

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WBFO News photo by Ashley Hassett
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Director of corporate relations Julie Snyder address media on worker lockout

By Ashley Hassett & Eileen Buckley

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-965577.mp3

Buffalo, NY – Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Western New York has locked out members of the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 212. The union represents 390 of their employees.

Management at the local health insurer failed to reach a contract agreement with the union late Monday night.

It issued robo calls to those employees not to report to work Tuesday.

The company has been negotiating a new contract with the union for the last two months with local union 212. Blue Cross Blue Shield leaders met with reporters in downtown Buffalo Tuesday morning.

Blue-Cross said it has made every effort to reach a new agreement, including opening negotiations earlier than the last contract renewal three years ago.

"We are the only health insurance company in Western New York with an unionized workforce and we intend to keep it that way," said Julie Snyder, director of corporate relations.

Snyder said it appears the union had no intention of reaching an agreement prior to the contract expiring.

The company pledges customers service will not be interrupted.

"We have a direct and accountable responsibility to our customers. The company's business continuity plan ensures that they can continue to receive service and care so there is no interruption in their access to benefits or to care at any level," said Snyder.

But the union is firing back. Local 212 has stated that the proposal, made by Blue Cross Blue Shield, serve to "obliterate" the bargaining process, including the unlimited right to subcontract.

The union also accuses the company of "playing games" with the process.

This is part of a statment posted on the OPEIU 212 Website Tuesday.

"It is bad faith for the company to post a notice on their website of their so called "final offer" before they have conveyed that to the negotiating committee. At the company posted on their website at approximately 6:30 of evening we were in still in caucus waiting for them to reply to our last proposal."

Local 212 said at a scheduled Monday morning session the union made a number of inquires about the company's pending offer. The union claims it presented questions which were not answered until 2 p.m. Monday.

The union said it quickly presented a counter proposal, but Blue Cross Blue Shield had not yet replied to it. Local 212 goes as far calling the company's offer posted on its Website as a "breach of their bargaining responsibility."