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Strike looms at St. E's



Published: Sat, May 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Some replacement workers are expected to be on the job today.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- St. Elizabeth Health Center is bracing for the beginning of the first strike in its 90-year history at noon today.

Negotiations with service workers broke off Friday afternoon, and no new talks have been scheduled.

"We must be ready to successfully meet the needs of our patients and the people of the Mahoning Valley," said Molly Seals, senior vice president for human resources at Humility of Mary Health Partners, which operates the hospital.

Chris McCarty, HMHP regional director of communications, said all HMHP facilities will perform their normal functions and keep normal hours during the strike by 870 members of Teamsters Local 377, which represents a broad range of workers, including dietary, housekeeping, and clerical workers, surgery technicians and health-care aides.

The strikers' work will be performed by management and other nonunion hospital staff, McCarty said. "Our existing employees will be redeployed to meet the needs of various departments. We have some part-time people that may want to move to full time. Some hours will be extended for existing people," he said.

Replacements: Some newly hired strike replacement employees will begin work today and others early next week, but McCarty said he couldn't provide the number of replacement workers.

The Teamsters strike will hit St. Elizabeth while 771 registered nurses, who walked off their jobs May 1, remain on strike at its competitor, Forum Health.

Talks between HMHP management and Teamsters Local 377 began at 10 a.m. Friday at the union hall and broke off at 4:20 p.m. after the Teamsters negotiating committee said the hospital's new offer was insufficient to warrant the 72-hour extension of the strike deadline the hospital requested, said Ken Norris, Teamsters business agent.

The two sides met Friday with the assistance of a federal mediator.

"They came back and offered us an additional 5 cents. We felt that that was an insult," Norris said. "If the health center would have made substantial moves, we would have given them an extension," he added.

Hospital management proposed increasing the hourly raise for employees, who have reached the pay ceiling within their job classifications, from the 20 cents they had offered earlier this week to 25 cents in the first year of a three-year contract.

They also proposed a 10 percent maximum annual increase in employee contributions to their health plans, down from the 12 percent they proposed earlier in the week.

Major issue: "One of the main issues that's still on the table is the caps for the senior employees. Over 40 percent of the current employees haven't had a raise in over eight years," Norris said.

Soon after the talks broke off, Teamsters were lettering and assembling picket signs at their union hall.

milliken@vindy.com




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