There are few business relationships that last over thirty-five years, but in the case of the Teamsters and the Manitoba Blue Cross, the relationship that started in 1976 is still going strong. It started with a few gentlemen: Kerry Bittner, Norm Finley and Lou Janze. Norm, the Chair of Local Union 362 at the time, wanted to establish a health benefits program for members. Working with Lou, a consultant running a union trustee business providing health plans, the two approached Kerry to discuss the opportunities for a Health and Welfare plan to provide medicine to the union members.
At the time, this sort of thing was unprecedented. Not knowing how many members it would be for, Norm and Lou urged Kerry to quote them on what “had the potential to service 1000 members.” None of the other insurance companies would quote, as they were reticent to provide a rate to something that wasn’t guaranteed. Although it felt like risky business, the Manitoba Blue Cross took a chance, and quoted Norm and Lou on a rate for 1000 members – despite there being zero members.
In June of 1976, at a trustees meeting, the Manitoba Blue Cross was appointed to be the carriers of the Health and Dental Plan for the Teamsters. A couple of short years later, membership enrolment was up to 300. Thirty-six years later, the Manitoba Blue Cross is still servicing the account under Kerry Bittner’s direction, and Local Union 362 provides its members with two plans: the 362 Plan, for Construction and Pipeline Members who work on a contract basis and bank hours, and the Prairie Plan, for Members who are employed on a monthly basis (as most members work year round). The 362 Construction Plan now services 800 Members, and the Prairie Plan, which, having started in 1982, is slightly younger than the original Construction Plan, services 3600 Members. Therefore, the plans together benefit 4400 Members of the Local Union 362. Both are related to the strong and long-lasting relationship that we have with Kerry.
Further, the Health and Benefits plan that is provided to the Local Union 362 members is one of the top in its class. In terms of dental and health coverage, its benefits are in the top category of any employer’s. The rate is stable and the Manitoba Blue Cross wants to keep it that way. “It’s a pretty unique relationship,” says Kerry, “working with the Teamsters Local 362 has been a truly great experience.”