Proposed changes in medical benefits came under fire by retirees after a recent contract was negotiated between the district and its current work force. The agreement allowed salary increases under the condition that employees absorb some of the rising health care costs, which could have posed financial hardships for some retirees had the new policy been applied to them.
"We're all just in jubilation," said Helen Bridge, Chabot Association of Retired Employees president. "For them to do this when other organizations are moving in the opposite direction says a lot.
"It shows compassion, wisdom and a basic sense of fairness by affirming our vested rights in regards to medical coverage."
The negotiated contract for the college's classified and faculty staff takes effect in July and calls for higher prescription fees $5 for generic drugs and $15 for brand drugs, compared with the last contract's $2 and $5 fees.
Employees also will be required to make a $5 co-payment during medical visits, depending on the plan.
Retirees, hired before 1984 for classified employees or before 1986 for faculty staff, were guaranteed "lifetime benefits" by the district as part of their contract. The district currently has more than 350 retirees.
The change spurred debate over the college's original intent when the board adopted the "lifetime benefits" policy in 1974.
Retirees, under the guidance of CARE, argued that the benefits in effect prior to their retirement should be honored and guaranteed. Some of them wrote letters and spoke at board meetings to inform the district how their lives would be affected by the changes.
Trustees not only listened but acted. "It was never the intent of the board to take away or change retiree benefits. However, we needed to perform a detailed analysis of future costs in order to determine the short- and long-range impacts on the budget," Chancellor Dr. Susan Cota said. "After this analysis, the board decided that it was in the best interest of all parties involved to maintain the level of coverage that retirees have been receiving."
Kristofer Noceda can be reached at (510) 293-2479 or firstname.lastname@example.org.