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St. Pete agrees to open employee health center to part-time workers

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The city of St. Pete has agreed to open its Employee Healthcare Clinic to part-time workers. The clinic has been open since 2013 for all full-time city employees. Based on a tentative agreement between the city and the employee union, that perk may soon be available to part-timers too.

The $770,000 per year facility at Bayfront Medical Center offers basic medical care with no co-pay. Many basic medications are also free to employees.

The facility is open during regular business hours similar to other doctor’s offices. Employees can go to the clinic during work hours for up to one hour.

Services include basic treatment and prescriptions as well as lab work.

The idea initially was to drive down health care costs incurred by the city covering employees by helping identify serious or chronic illnesses early when treatment is often less expensive.

According to Chris Guella, the city’s human resources director, extending it to part-time workers may drive cost down even further even though the city does not offer employer-sponsored health insurance to those workers.

“A lot of our part time employees eventually move into full-time positions,” Guella said. “Health and wellness is key.”

Union officials are thrilled the city agreed to expand services to its part-time employees. Brian “Cricket” Brehm, a union steward, said he was overwhelmingly grateful.

“That’s more than any raise we could bargain for them,” Brehm said.

Brehm said many part-time employees are also some of the lowest paid on the city’s payroll meaning many can’t afford private health insurance.

The agreement still needs to be voted on by union members before heading to City Council for its up or down vote. However, Guella said he’s confident the agreement will be approved.

In addition to the employee health center, city employees would also receive a 2 percent raise under the agreement and then another two percent raise on the anniversary of their employment.

The bargaining agreement eliminates the city’s long-standing step raises. Many employees had expressed concern over that provision because it means some veteran employees will not get large raises they originally expected.

Guella said he hopes to negotiate some sort of performance-based pay increase to replace the step raises next year.

The agreement would affect all city employees regardless of whether or not they are union members.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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