After nearly six months of negotiations, unionized service employees with Michaud Residential Health Services in Fulton and St. Luke’s Health Services in Oswego may have finally reached an agreement with their company.
St. Luke’s officials announced Friday that “tentative contract agreements have been reached” with the service employees. The previous contract agreements had expired on July 31.
The service employees, represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU #1199) Upstate, include certified nursing assistants (CNAs), dietary workers and members of the groundskeeping staff.
Details of the tentative agreements were not available as of press time, as they were still pending final approval by both the St. Luke/Michaud Board of Directors and the union. Company spokesperson Greg Osetek told the Valley News the union would be voting on the agreement this week, and that the board is expected to evaluate the contract and make its decision some time in the next couple weeks.
“We are pleased that the work of all the parties involved in negotiations has resulted in tentative agreements,” said Osetek. “To continue to deliver the quality healthcare that St. Luke and Michaud are known for in our community, we need to be able to operate our not-for-profit affiliate organizations in a fiscally responsible manner. We believe these agreements allow us to accomplish this, and are fair and equitable for our hard-working employees.”
Calls to an SEIU #1199 spokesperson were unreturned.
In August, after a four-month stalemate in negotiations, the service employees, alongside union representatives and other supporters, held a non-stoppage picket outside St. Luke’s. There, workers spoke out against the company’s desire to eliminate their 15-minute shift overlap period, which would have cut down their weekly hours. In order to make up the difference in pay, workers were offered a total 4.3 percent raise in that contract – 3.3 percent of which was designed to supplement the time loss, while the remaining 1 percent would have served as their cost of living increase.
Most of those employees, who are paid hourly, would still have been considered full-time, and eligible for benefits accordingly.
Protesters called the wage increase unfair, and said residents’ care would suffer as a result of the time cut.
“The quality of care is going to decline. We’re not going to have as much time to take care of the residents,” said Eric Susino, a St. Luke’s employee. “They’re saying that they’re giving us a 4.3 percent raise, but 3.3 percent of it is just making up for the lost wages we would have had with the 15-minute loss of day. Only 1 percent of that is real money going into our pockets, and we don’t think that’s fair.”
If accepted, the new agreement would extend for the next three years, Osetek said.