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Kaleida Health Statement Regarding Labor Negotiations
Kaleida Health announced on Friday, May 31, 2013 that they have reached a three week contract extension with the Communications Workers of America/AFL-CIO (CWA1168), International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE 17) and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
Both management and labor have also agreed to work with a federal mediator to assist in negotiations moving forward. The Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service is a government agency that provides free mediation services to help parties reach agreement in a contract negotiation.
Michael P. Hughes, vice president for Kaleida Health, said, “With the help of a skilled mediator, we want to build upon the progress made thus far, and come to agreement with the unions on a new contract. To date, we have reached tentative agreement on 143 articles, which represents the majority (90%) of all articles in the contract.”
Kaleida Health and the three unions held 30 bargaining sessions since negotiations began in March 2013.
The master bargaining agreement between Kaleida Health and the three unions covers over 7,000 employees. It was a two year contract that expired at midnight on May 31, 2013.
Earlier this week, the three unions (Communications Workers of America/AFL-CIO (CWA1168), International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE 17) and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East) announced their intent to hold a “strike authorization” vote. A strike authorization vote is a frequently utilized tactic by unions in negotiations. It allows (but does not require), via their by-laws and constitutions, the union bargaining committee to call a strike after the contract expires, if they deem a work stoppage is necessary.
The unions have begun to notify their members of the vote, which is scheduled for June 10, 11 and 12th. In the event a strike vote is authorized by the membership, the union may then issue Kaleida Health management a notice of intent to strike in 10 days. Therefore, no job action can occur until after June 21, 2013.
Hughes added, “While we are disappointed with the union’s decision, Kaleida Health management will continue to bargain in good faith with the primary objective of completing a new contract without any work stoppage. Management is not in favor of a work stoppage, but has contingency plans in place to ensure that we can continue to deliver safe, quality care to those that depend on us in the event the unions authorize a strike.”
“We are willing to, and we have, offered new dollars to our employees. We have done that in proposed increases in wages, pension, benefits, paid time off and parking. We have also proposed decreases in employee health care contributions and out of pocket prescription drug costs. It may not be as much as the unions want, but it equals more than we made last year. We just cannot agree to the union’s current proposal; it will put us out of business in less than one year.”
Kaleida Health’s current proposal adds approximately $20 million to its workforce. The unions' current proposal on the negotiating table is over $90 million, or $70 million higher than management’s offer.
Kaleida Health, like other hospitals and healthcare systems nationally and in New YorkState, has been faced with shrinking revenues, changes in reimbursements, rising costs, federal and state budget cuts and the economic recession.
These financial challenges have forced many hospitals and healthcare providers to freeze or cut wages, reduce jobs and ask employees to pay a greater share of their benefit costs. Some hospitals have filed for bankruptcy, and over 30 in New York State have closed permanently during the last decade.