Health care workers, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital reach tentative deal

NewsJanuary 21, 2012

by Andy Stiny
the Californian, Jan. 17 2012

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) have reached a tentative agreement on a contract with the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, the union said in a news release issued Tuesday.

The new contract would end 12 months of difficult negotiations between the two sides. The dispute included a one-day strike by union hospital workers and two-day lockout of those workers by the hospital.

The union members will hold a ratification vote Thursday and a special meeting of the hospital’s board of directors would then be called as soon as possible to approve the agreement, the news release said. Details of the agreement would then be made available.

The hospital is withholding comment until after the ratification vote, said Adrienne Laurent, SVMH director of public affairs.

Marilyn Benson, chief shop steward for the NUHW at the hospital, said it was time to put the issue to rest. “I’m glad we reached a settlement that both sides can live with,” she said.

“Basically everything stays the same,” said Benson” The agreement means “we would roll over our contract, that there would be no take-aways and there would be a modest increase (in wages),” she said.

Benson, who is 73, said she was laid off in June along with 16 other licensed vocational nurses in a reduction in hospital staff. She is now retired after working at SVMH for 37 years.

“It is our understanding the board will approve it (the agreement) on Friday,” said Benson.

Both sides praised

Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), whose staff facilitated the negotiations, released a statement praising both sides.

“SVMH and NUHW have made terrific progress by setting aside their conflicts and settling on a contract after months of complications,” said the statement.

The NUHW represents 750 hospital employees at SVMH. Those represented include licensed vocational nurses, radiology technicians, respiratory therapists, certified nursing assistants, clerical and dietary workers and housekeepers.

The union does not represent the hospital’s registered nurses, who are represented by the California Nurses Association. They reached an agreement earlier on their contract.

The NUHW workers were previously represented by Service Employees International Union but voted to switch unions in 2010, Leighton Woodhouse of the NUHW said in an e-mail. The terms and conditions of the previous contract remain in place until the new agreement is ratified, said Woodhouse.