UPDATE: Honeywell to terminate retiree health care coverage for thousands

Published: Apr. 30, 2018 at 11:58 AM EDT
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The end of July could mark the end of health insurance coverage for retired Honeywell workers, their spouses and dependents.

A letter from the company headquarters in Morris Plains, New Jersey served as legal notice for the termination which court documents indicate could impact 4,700 retirees.

It’s something the company has been fighting in the courts to do since 2011 and recently received a favorable ruling a U.S. District Court in Detroit.

In a written statement provided to NewsCenter 16, Honeywell indicated that, "This was a difficult decision, but necessary to keep Honeywell competitive in a challenging economic environment and enable us to continue to provide tens of thousands of good jobs throughout the U.S."

“Now that the corporations are making more money with the tax cuts and everything it’s really hard to believe that they can’t afford it at this point,” said Tom Zmyslo, Retiree Chairman at UAW Local 9.

Zmyslo finds it hard to believe that Honeywell can’t keep doing what he says the company has been doing for some 60 years—between Bendix, Allied Signal and Honeywell. “And it's a shame you're up in your age and your elderly and you're getting older and you have more medical problems and when you really need the coverage, they pull the rug out from underneath you.”

Bendix retiree Don Urbanski was diagnosed with bladder cancer back in May of 2011. He’s now worried about his physical and fiscal health. “With a limited monthly income you're looking at anywhere from $3 to $400 dollars a month for a supplemental insurance that more than likely won't even give you the coverage we got right now.”

Urbanski says he pays just $96 a month for supplemental insurance through Honeywell. “It seems to me they have an abundance, amount of money to pay these officials at the top horrendous salaries and perks.”

Urbanski says some 13,000 people were on the payroll when he was hired at Bendix. The latest Honeywell count provided a couple of months ago put employment now at 265 workers.

“You know years ago, you had a situation where Bendix was, was run by a community members, and they had an open heart to the people that worked for them and appreciated what they did,” recalled Zmyslo. “Years ago you went to work for a company and you were loyal for them for what they promised they were going to give you. And I think that's one of the reasons today that corporations have people come and going all the time and leaving their jobs.”

Honeywell sent out a similar insurance cancellation notice about this time last year, but never followed through with the threat due to continued legal wrangling.

Attorneys involved in the case were back in court in Detroit today where a hearing on the matter was set for June 26th.

Earlier version:

Honeywell is planning to cut health care coverage for thousands of retirees and their covered spouses and dependents.

The cuts would affect as many as 4,700 people nationwide and about 2,000 people locally.

Honeywell is planning to end its retiree medical and prescription drug coverage on July 31.

We'll have much more on Monday evening during our 90 minutes of news starting at 5.

The following letter was sent to Honeywell retirees and their spouses:

As you may be aware, in September 2011, the UAW and a group of Honeywell retirees who had worked at Honeywell facilities governed by a series of Honeywell-UAW Master collective bargaining agreements ("Master CBAs") sued Honeywell in federal court seeking a legal declaration that retirees (and their eligible spouses and dependents) were entitled to vested retiree healthcare benefits for life. On March 29, 2018, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan held that none of the Master CBAs entitled retirees (or their eligible spouses and dependents) to vested, lifetime healthcare benefits because Honeywell's obligation to provide healthcare coverage ceased upon the negotiated expiration date included in each of the Master CBAs. The last Master CBA at issue in that litigation -- the 2011 Master CBA -- expired on May 3, 2016. Honeywell and the UAW subsequently agreed to a new Master CBA, effective February 25, 2017. That CBA does not provide health care benefits to retirees (or their eligible spouses and dependents), and therefore Honeywell has no legal obligation to continue providing retiree medical coverage. As a result of the Court's decision and the terms of the 2017 Master CBA, Honeywell hereby provides this notice of its intent to terminate the retiree medical and prescription drug coverage currently provided to you and your covered spouses and dependents effective July 31, 2018. By notifying you of this change now, Honeywell is providing you 90 days to carefully review the coverage options available through the state/federal insurance exchanges and secure alternative coverage. If you have any questions, please call HR Help at 1-877-258-3699 and select option 4. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (ET).