GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While we are waiting to see if auto workers walk off the job Thursday night, fellow United Auto Workers members with Blue Cross Blue Shield are already on the picket lines.
Customer service and other employee groups with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan here in Grand Rapids and across the state walked off the job around midnight Wednesday. Among striking workers’ grievances is the wage scale gap.
“We want to be able to have people progress quicker to the top. Currently, we’re looking at about 25 years before people can actually get to the top of their wage scale,” UAW Local 2145 President Janice Hilliard said.
The outsourcing of their jobs to other states and other countries is also a point of contention.
“We have a lot of our work that is being outsourced to vendors, which includes vendors in El Salvador and the Philippines,” Hilliard said.
While the strike impacts hundreds of BCBS workers across the state, it could also impact you if you’re calling the insurer with a question.
“Our largest population of our members are customer service reps, and that’s in Detroit and Grand Rapids. So I think it’s probably impacting those calls,” Hilliard said.
In a statement, BCBS said it hopes to resolve the dispute soon. It said it had plans in place so it could continue to provide service, but acknowledged customer service phone waits would be longer.
“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.”Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
The strike comes less than two days before some 146,000 UAW members working for the Big Three are poised to walk off the job. Could that strike, if it happens, take the focus away from Blue Cross, Blue Shield strikers?
“I don’t think it will get lost because we’re going to make sure it doesn’t get lost,” Hilliard said.