The union representing hospital workers at French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo and Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria has announced plans for a three-day strike starting at 11 p.m. next Tuesday.
Labor and management have been unable to reach agreement on a new contract to replace a four-year term that expired April 30.
According to Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers — which represents housekeepers, janitors, licensed vocational nurses and nursing assistants — 90 percent of 7,000 union members employed by Dignity Health facilities voted to set an unfair labor practice strike deadline.
The union said Dignity management “withdrew some proposed cuts,” but is still proposing “unacceptable concessions,” which include “no across-the-board raise for two years” and “cuts to health, retirement, education funds and layoff benefits.”
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Union spokeswoman Carlyn Foster said management canceled talks planned for Friday and Saturday, but a session will go on today as scheduled.
“Our goal is to reach a contract by the end of the week,” she said.
Registered nurses are not covered by the contract in question, and no SEIU members work at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, which is also a Dignity Health facility.
The company, formerly known as Catholic Healthcare West, posted $917 million in earnings in 2010-11.
Dignity Health spokeswoman Tricia Griffin explained the health system’s stance.
Dignity Health has “provided raises totaling 28 percent to the 14,000 employees in California who are represented by SEIU-UHW,” she said.
“Our costs for providing employee health care coverage also have increased 32 percent during the past four years, and Dignity Health has paid the full cost of these increases rather than shifting them to our employees as many employers have done. In the current economy, we simply cannot sustain the increases the SEIU-UHW continues to demand. To ensure that we are able to continue our healing mission, we must control our costs.”
She called the union demands and its decision to call a strike “unreasonable.”
At French and Marian, employees represented by SEIU received an average annual salary increase of 7 percent per year, totaling 28 percent over the past four-year period, according to a statement by French’s CEO Alan Iftinuk.
According to his statement, as part of the employee compensation package, Dignity Health provides a health insurance plan with no premium cost for employees and their family members, including children until the age of 26. In addition, Dignity Health employees receive a funded pension plan, which is fully paid by Dignity Health, and an employer matching 403(b) retirement plan.
Griffin said Dignity Health facilities “will be fully staffed with qualified professionals” during any possible strike to provide care.