Breaking News…GOOD NEWS…Flex Benefit Cash Payouts Will Continue to be Paid Each Payday
We are pleased to report that after continued efforts, pressure and objections raised by MEA, the City has reversed course on its plan to replace biweekly Flex cash payouts with twice annual payouts. MEA and the City have signed a side letter agreement that keeps the status quo in place (Flex benefit cash will continue to be paid every two weeks each payday). This side letter agreement still has to be voted on and approved by the City Council, but we are confident that will happen before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.
Since the City first raised this issue last year, MEA has been fighting its implementation on a number of fronts. We stressed to the City that for many MEA-represented employees, the impact of this change on their monthly budgeting was going to be significant and very damaging. We also argued that the legal justification offered for the change was overstated, if not flat wrong. But every time we made progress with City officials about the harmful consequences of this unnecessary change, the response back was that the City was bound by a legal opinion that said otherwise.
The breakthrough came with the personal involvement of Mayor Kevin Faulconer. He got it. He heard us. He heard you. And he got to work on the issue and fixed it within a matter of a few weeks.
Working with the City Attorney’s office, Mayor Faulconer produced a resolution that resolves the matter – at least for now. We want to sincerely thank Mayor Faulconer for intervening in this matter and causing this outcome to happen. If you happen to see the Mayor out and about and have the chance to speak with him, please take the time to thank him for his efforts and this success! We also acknowledge and appreciate the fact that, when confronted with the Mayor’s concerns over the operational impacts of this proposed change on employees, the City Attorney’s Office demonstrated appropriate flexibility in re-evaluating the legal issues to allow for this resolution.
The side letter agreement states that Flex cash will continue to be paid out on a biweekly basis until at least fiscal year 2018. Beginning then, the City will have the option to revisit the issue and choose to change the payout schedule at its discretion with proper advance notice to employees. However, it seems unlikely that the City will want to do that. The agreement also requires MEA to meet and confer about ensuring that all aspects of the City’s Flex Benefit Plan comply with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, something that we would have to do anyway to ensure that our Flex plan is consistent with federal and state law.
The upset that this potential change has caused is regrettable, but we are thrilled that the City has agreed to “undo” the change and not implement it as it had previously planned to do on July 1. We also want to thank those of you who reached out to MEA over the past few months to make clear the negative impact this change was going to have on you and your family. Those contacts mattered and made a difference, because we used your stories when we communicated with the Mayor. He listened and took action. Thank you again Mayor Faulconer.
As always, if you have questions or need more information, please don’t hesitate to contact MEA at 619-264-6632.