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Workers to Return to Western New York Blue

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Employees locked out by a New York state health insurer have ratified a new contract and are set to return to work Aug. 1.

Members of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 212 in Buffalo, N.Y., have voted to accept a 3-year agreement with HealthNow New York Inc., Buffalo, N.Y., which does business as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York, OPEIU officials say.

The agreement affects 390 workers who were handling customer service, claim processing, document reproduction and clerical support services for HealthNow. The workers’ contract expired April 25, and the workers have been locked out of their jobs since that date, the OPEIU says.

HealthNow had said it might move the workers’ jobs out of Buffalo, and it was trying to remove job security provisions.

The new agreement keeps the job security provisions, provides for each worker to get a $2,500 lump-sum bonus, and is set to increase workers’ wages 5% over the 3-year life of the contract, the OPEIU says.

Benefits and working condition provisions will remain the same, and Local 212 workers will get two weeks of company-paid vacation while waiting to return to work in August.

- Allison Bell

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