Despite a hopeful appeal to the Ridgewood district to help them procure family health insurance, custodians in the village are likely to be left out in the cold for at least another year.
Custodian Ashton Murray, a worker with contractor GCA Services Group, told the Ridgewood school board Monday that according to the worker agreement with GCA, if the district provided enough capital in the current year's budget GCA employees could receive family health insurance.
School officials say the agreement GCA signed with its workers in 2009 is a private matter and they cannot "arbitrarily increase the fee" on the contract. The district will go out to bid on a new deal in July of 2013.
It's a hard reality for custodians to swallow.
Not having family health insurance has become a burden, financially and emotionally for Oralie Edwards, 63, and his family.
His wife, a part-time nanny, is without insurance, as is his 24-year-old son.
"It could be the worst of the worst," Edwards said. "If she gets hospitalized...we only have half coverage. It scares me. If she gets sick, I cannot afford it. And my son too – he doesn't have insurance."
Edwards pays $325 a month for his individual plan, which doesn't cover prescriptions or the needs of his family. To go it alone with full family coverage, he said he'd have to pay $500 a month, a price he can't afford.
"We don't have that kind of money," he said. Edwards says he makes $12.85 an hour and works 40 hours a week at GCA.
"We'd like to get this insurance as soon as possible. As far as I understand, [GCA says] they don't have the money for that coverage; they say it will cost them half-a-million."
Were the board to open up the contract, it's possible other bidders who lost out could initiate legal action on the grounds the terms of the deal changed, according to school officials.
All of this means one thing — GCA workers will have to go it alone to procure family coverage.
Edwards' frustration extends beyond just the company's apparent refusal to provide for greater care.
"We were better off before the union," said Edwards, who's worked as a custodian in Ridgewood for 11 years and became unionized two years ago. "My wife had insurance and we didn't have to struggle to pay for medication. I didn't want to join the union but my boss said to me if I don't join the union, I can't work."
Not working was not an acceptable choice, he said.
The custodian also works at King's Supermarket in the village to help make ends meet but with limited work hours and East Ridgewood Avenue rent needing be paid, it just isn't enough.
Though he's thankful his wife has not needed to visit the hospital — where costs can mount in the thousands for simple medical attention — Edwards says a doctor visit with a prescription will cost him anywhere between $200-400 out of pocket.
"It stresses me," he told Patch. "I try not to think about it but when the circumstances arise, I do. Because I'm under pressure having two jobs to meet demands, I have much time to think about it."
Phoebe Schell, a Service Employees International Union Local (SEIU) 32 union rep, said the union has been negotiating with GCA Services to no avail.
Calls to the custodial company's corporate office were not returned.
GCA, employs over 30,000 workers nationwide and claimed over $700 million in revenue last year, according to the company's website.
"If you're in this country, there are serious problems when you're without health insurance," Edwards said. "But what am I going to do?"