Hospital workers approve contract

“We squeezed out all of the money we could get without going out on strike.”

Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 at Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen voted Thursday to approve a tentative contract through April 2019.

The voted was described as “overwhelmingly in favor” by a member of the negotiating team. Numbers of votes for and against the proposal weren’t disclosed, however. UFCW Local 21 represents about 330 of the hospital’s employees.

“This is the best contract we could get under the circumstances,” said John Warring, one of bargaining unit’s representatives. “We squeezed out all of the money we could get without going out on strike.”

This result occurred after months of negotiations — the process began in March — and an informational demonstration outside the hospital in late fall.

“We are pleased to have come to an agreement with UFCW,” Tom Jensen, CEO, Grays Harbor Community Hospital, said Friday morning in a written statement. “As always we are grateful to our employees, and for their dedication and diligence in providing high quality care to our patients and for our community.”

Terms include an across-the-board pay increase starting May 7 of 2.5 percent, followed by another 2.25 percent raise in May 2018.

There was a 2 percent increase to all of the hospital’s UFCW members in December.

A $500 ratification bonus goes to each full-time employee on the payroll as of May 1, 2016, who is still active as of the first pay period after this contract’s ratification. Part-time employees would received prorated bonuses.

Employees will also receive expanded bereavement leave benefits.

There are other targeted increases for some workers, such as those with lead responsibilities, as well as some employees working weekends and those not on traditional day shifts. Market increases will come to workers with an array of job titles.

“We are still very concerned about insurance costs for our members,” Warring said.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, there will be a $200 bonus provided to employees who make $18.50 an hour or less to offset insurance increases expected to come at that point.

To try to make up for the added costs for health insurance coverage, “we’ll try again in a couple of years.” Warring added.

Jim Davis, an emergency room tech at the hospital, thought the negotiation process should have continued before settling on this proposal. The bonus didn’t take into account the efforts of long-time employees to the success of the hospital because even people who have been there for a short time will receive the payment, for example.

“I think they could have done better,” Davis said. “I think they were afraid the next decision was to strike.”

Davis also thought the contract should have been given earlier to the employees affected by it so they had ample time to read it thoroughly and make fully informed decisions before having to vote.