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Outreach Regarding Authorization to Strike Vote

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Plight of North Adams Hospital

September 3, 2019 –   The hospital recently became aware of the Union’s intention to hold a vote to authorize to strike on Wednesday, September 4.   Once again, the hospital legal representative reached out to the Union Rep.    At 2:36 p.m. an in depth email was sent by CRH legal Counsel to the Union Rep and Bargaining Team members.    Nine minutes later at 2:45 p.m., the Union Rep spoke on behalf of the Bargaining Team – which really leads us to doubt that he spoke to any (much less all) of his team before responding on their behalf.    We think union members should be aware of these communications before voting on Wednesday, along with our community members and other staff.    A copy of both emails is included in the link above entitled ‘Outreach Regarding Authorization to Strike Vote’.   The ‘Combined Proposal Impact’ link is a copy of the attachment sent with the email calculating each union members total value increase with the proposed salary and PEP changes.

June 21, 2019  –  At the first negotiation meeting the objectives the Hospital wished to achieve were outlined. We believed there were areas of improvement that would benefit both the Hospital and the union employees. We do not view negotiations as a zero sum game.

One example of win-win negotiations working in practice was the change in health care coverage. This change was offered to the union August 29. There was no response by the September 11 deadline, nevertheless the Hospital worked with the union and extended the deadline. The union ultimately agreed to the same coverage as the rest of the Hospital. These changes to the health plan were not concessionary. They brought benefit to both the Hospital and the employees.

The Hospital also offered to grant year for year experience credit for licensed members of the union. This year for year credit would apply to new and existing employees. About half of the union members would receive a raise with this proposal. Again, a win-win situation. The Hospital will be better able to attract and retain experienced employees; in turn, union employees get raises. The cost of this proposal is currently estimated at $40,000. Under no circumstances can this proposal be considered concessionary.

In its Last Best and Final Offer (LBFO), the Hospital has again offered to include Union members in the health plan offered to the rest of the Hospital employees, just as it did last fall. We do not view this as a concessionary proposal, much less a “deep concession”. Accusations of the Hospital proposing to “gut contractual out-of pocket limits” are untrue and unfounded. There is no such proposal. We do not know at this stage if there will be any changes at all. Last September, the bargaining unit apparently agreed that the changes the Hospital made were an improvement. Currently, the Union team has expressed a fear the Hospital will make significant changes. There is no evidence of this, but to address these fears, in the LBFO, the Hospital offered to allow union employees to keep the current plan and the Hospital would even absorb 10% of any premium increase. The Hospital proposal does not have a cost savings. Indeed, it allows for a cost increase.

With respect to the paid time off (PEP) changes, loss or gain all depends on individual usage. Therefore, the Hospital has not attempted to model any savings. Because the offer contains additional paid days off, the proposal may very well increase costs in the short run. We do know that over time, the liability will decrease. Because the union objected to the loss of flexibility, the Hospital’s offer presented an alternative option to the Union: they could keep the current PEP system with a new cap and be paid 100% upon termination for hours accrued prior to acceptance and 50% for PEP hours accrued after. There is no short term savings in this alternative proposal either. Any long term savings will depend on usage and will only occur upon separation of employment. The only “concession” is that new, unused hours will be paid out at 50% rather than 100% upon termination. For current bargaining unit members this should have very little impact. We offered to allow “new” PEP hours to be used first, meaning the 100% hours could be banked unless there were insufficient new hours to be used. Thus, the impact on current bargaining unit employees is minimal. They will likely lose nothing.

Increases were presented in the Hospital’s offer. The real $40,000 increase far outweighs any speculative losses resulting from the other changes proposed by the Hospital. We have yet to receive a breakdown of the calculation on the Union’s claimed $1700 loss to staff. Or an explanation as to how the amounts are greater than the wage increases offered. We are confident that any speculative “losses” resulting from the Hospital proposals is far outweighed by the over $40,000 increase in wages, plus the provision for step increases in all years. This is why we maintain that the package presented in our offer is not concessionary.

We have encouraged the proposal to be presented to the entire union membership for a vote. We believe that that the Hospital’s offer can and should be ratified if presented to the membership.

May 22, 2019  –  CRH Administration is committed to reaching an agreement with our union members, which equates to 18% of the employees at the hospital, however we must also continue to speak up for the best interests of our staff as a whole, our patients and our community. Administration must address issues that need to be tended to, concerns of staff, and the needs of our community while also being acutely aware of the current realities the hospital, and healthcare industry, is facing.

CRH will continue to aim for high quality care and excellent customer service in the most efficient manner possible. The organization has made tough, but necessary, decisions as the historical financials show.   CRH remains committed to taking action to improve performance now and over the long term by balancing access, improving quality and reducing cost.