Bank of America security guards protest loss of affordable benefits

New York security guards who contend they lost affordable health insurance after Bank of America Corp.'s purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co. brought their protest to the Charlotte bank's headquarters on Tuesday.

In the merger transition, about 130 former Merrill Lynch security guards in December faced a steep increase in their health care benefits, leaving many unable to afford coverage, said Joe Eisman, organizing coordinator with a Service Employees International Union local. Another 30 lost their jobs. The changes came when guards were shifted to a security firm used by Bank of America, G4S Wackenhut, from a firm used by Merrill, Securitas.

More than a dozen SEIU representatives, mostly activists from Charlotte, held signs, chanted and called on new CEO Brian Moynihan to restore the guards' benefits.

Bank spokeswoman Nicole Nastacie said SEIU has "misrepresented" Bank of America's role. "The guards are not bank associates or participants in our benefit programs," she said.

In a statement, G4S Wackenhut said all officers were offered health benefits. The company said its family plan was more expensive than a union program but that its employee-only program was less expensive. Officers who lost their jobs either chose to leave on their own or didn't meet necessary qualifications, the company said.

Though the guards are employed by a third-party firm, Bank of America is responsible for the contract that ultimately funds the officers' salaries and benefits, Eisman contended.

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