MAYFIELD, Ky. (May 26)—The United Steelworkers has condemned Continental Tire North America Inc.'s termination of health insurance benefits for nearly 200 laid-off Mayfield employees and their families, but Continental claims the affected individuals failed to follow proper protocol to continue their coverage.
The members affected are laid off due to Conti's phase-out of tire making last year at the Mayfield plant. The USW said these workers are entitled to continued health insurance benefits as a result of contractual protections promised by the company in an agreement with the USW and Local 665.
The union said the contract requires the tire maker continue health insurance for at least three months and up to 12 months while a member is laid off from work. For its part, Continental said it continues to provide company-paid health care coverage to laid-off employees in accordance with the terms of its collective bargaining agreement with the USW.
The firm said in order to receive health care coverage, laid-off employees are required to fill out an Election of Continuation of Group Health Care Coverage within 60 days after receipt of a written notice of their rights from the company. These requirements are established by federal law and are applicable to all employers that provide group health care coverage to their employees.
The USW called Conti's action a "blatant violation" of the company's collective bargaining agreement with the union and said it illustrates Continental's "lack of a conscience and lack of respect for people."
The tire maker said apparently some laid-off Mayfield employees did not submit applications for continuation coverage within the time frame required under federal law, and their coverage was terminated.
Conti said it will investigate individual claims regarding health care coverage and address any issues. It said it had requested information regarding the individuals who did not submit election forms, but the union failed or refused to respond to these requests.