Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Waterbury Workers Win Contract

Waterbury Hospital union members voted 163-1 to ratify their new collective bargaining agreement on March 6. The patient care attendants, unit clerks, storeroom and maintenance workers are members of New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199/SEIU.

The settlement comes after 14 months of negotiations with the Hospital and the threat of a strike. “I have been employed here since the early 1980’s,” said Brenda Morisette, the lead 1199 delegate who actually participated in the four-month 1986 Hospital strike. “I’ve have never seen such bad management. The Hospital could have had a contract with us months ago, but their giveback demands were outrageous.”

The final agreement includes successorship, which the members consider their most important win. If Vanguard Health Systems buys the Hospital, as it proposes to do, the company is required to assume the union employees and the union contract.

In addition, the workers won two raises of 2% each: this March and in 2015. The contract runs until March 2016. The workers agreed to adopt the paid time off (PTO) system with temporary cuts in hours. All the time accruals are then restored two months before the contract expires.

“We rejected attacks on our union pension and health insurance funds,” said Steve Thornton of 1199. “We defeated other backward demands by the boss, including the loss of overtime pay after 8 hours, and another provision that could cut workers’ hours any time the Hospital’s census dropped.”

“These proposals,” Thornton continued, “were thought up by people who are out of touch with workers’ reality. Negotiating is much harder when the employer’s elite mind-set takes control. We would like to operate from now on with mutual respect, but CEO Darlene Stromstad has not yet earned that respect.”

Rally with Letter Carriers

The Letter Carriers union in Connecticut has called a rally to protest the Postmaster General's plan to cut delivery of mail to five days a week. The rally will be held Sunday, March 24 at noon on the New Haven Green. Rallies will take place in every state in the country.

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