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Latest News - June 2012

June 19, 2012
Strike looms at Dominican Hospital next week
By: Jondi Gumz

The union representing thousands of hospital workers at Dignity Health including Dominican Hospital, Dominican Rehab Services and Dominican Oaks in Santa Cruz has announced plans for a three-day strike starting 11 p.m. June 26.

Labor and management have been unable to reach agreement on a new contract to replace a four-year agreement that expired April 30.

According to Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers, which represents housekeepers, janitors, licensed vocational nurses and nursing assistants, more than 7,000 union members employed by Dignity Health facilities voted, with 90 percent in support of setting 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."

Union spokeswoman Carlyn Foster said management canceled talks planned for Friday and Saturday but talks will go on Thursday as scheduled.

"Our goal is to reach a contract by the end of the week," she said.

She said union workers want job security while Dignity Health wants to subcontract jobs.

The company, formerly known as Catholic Healthcare West, posted $917 million in profits 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."

Griffin said Dignity Health facilities "will be fully staffed with qualified professionals" during that time to provide care.

Dr. Nanette Mickiewicz, Dominican Hospital president, issued a statement saying she is "deeply disappointed in the union's tactics and regret any inconvenience that the strike may cause our patients."

She said Dignity Health "has already made hard decisions such as freezing wages for nonrepresented employees. We are asking the union to work with us to control costs."

Though the two sides "remain apart on many issues," she said, "We look forward to reaching fair contract settlements with fair and competitive compensation and benefits for our employees."

Health care is not the only industry that is seeing tough negotiations during a time when economic recovery is uneven and uncertain.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 has been negotiating a new contract with Nob Hill Foods, Safeway and Save Mart to replace a four-year agreement that expired in October.

Talks were slated for Tuesday with Save Mart, according to union spokesman Mike Henneberry.

He reported "progress" with Safeway but not with Nob Hill parent Raley's. Raley's requested a federal mediator in May and met with the union June 8, but that didn't produce an agreement.

Raley's spokesman John Segale said, "We are on a day-to-day extension. No new talks are scheduled."



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