AT&T workers to pay higher share of healthcare

An arbitrator has ordered 43,000 union employees who work for AT&T Mobility to begin paying 20 percent of their healthcare costs in 2012.

The union, the Communications Workers of America, sued AT&T Mobility and other units earlier this month, accusing the company of trying to avoid providing benefits by restructuring business units to reassign union workers, something the union says would have put the workers in greater financial risk.

AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp said the arbitration decision is unrelated to the lawsuit and is the result of a months-long negotiations process. The employees in question currently pay 11 percent of their healthcare costs, and will see that percentage rise three points every year beginning in 2010. New employees will pay the 20 percent rate.

AT&T Inc. announced earlier in December that it would cut 12,000 jobs, mostly on the wireline side in the face of worsening economic conditions. This healthcare decision represents one way companies may look to curb costs going forward by passing on a greater burden of the cost of healthcare to employees. 

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