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VALLEY HOSPITALS Talks progress at St. E's, will resume at Forum



Published: Tue, May 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Teamsters are optimistic about a settlement at St. E's.

VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT

BOARDMAN -- Union negotiators reported progress in contract talks at St. Elizabeth Health Center and said a settlement to their strike could be reached today.

Talks continued late into the night Monday and were to resume this afternoon.

Teamsters Local 377 officials said they were optimistic a settlement could be reached because company officials changed their offer on how raises would be paid. The latest company proposal calls for hourly increases in each year of the three-year contract. An earlier proposal included lump-sum payments.

Humility of Mary Health Partners, which operates St. Elizabeth and several other health care facilities where Teamsters are striking, issued a statement this morning characterizing the talks as "cordial and productive," saying they have "yielded substantial progress."

"We are coming closer and closer but work remains to reach a fair agreement," said Molly Seals, senior vice president of human resources for HMHP.

About 870 service and maintenance workers at St. Elizabeth and other HMHP facilities have been on strike since May 12.

New talks: Meanwhile, Forum Health has scheduled new talks for Thursday morning with the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association. The YGDNA, which represents 771 registered nurses at Forum's Northside Medical Center, Tod Children's Hospital and Beeghly Medical Park, has been on strike since May 1.

Forum officials said the company requested the session through a federal mediator who has been working with the two sides.

Talks for the HMHP Teamsters began at 4 p.m. Monday at the Holiday Inn in Boardman. After an hourlong meeting to start the talks, representatives for HMHP and the Teamsters spent the rest of the night in different rooms while attorneys and Federal Mediator Thomas J. Connelly carried proposals back and forth.

HMHP Spokesman Chris McCarty said he thought the talks were "progressing well."

"I think we're all united to try to work through it all," he said.

Insider views: Bob Bernat, Local 377 secretary/treasurer, said he thought money was the major issue holding up further progress toward resolving the strike. Chris Colello, Teamsters Local 377 president, has said more than half of its members are getting "poverty wages."

The Teamsters also are seeking changes in vacation time and health-care benefits for the workers.

Bernat said the Teamsters and HMHP officials used the meeting that opened the talks to clarify the issues that needed to be discussed. He said the atmosphere at the meeting was "incredibly tense."

Black said the Teamsters have a total of 10 issues they need to work out with HMHP before the strike will end. He would not discuss the other issues.

The YGDNA and the Teamsters Local 377 announced Monday they are sponsoring a "Health Care Workers Rally" at 1 p.m. Saturday on Federal Plaza East in downtown Youngstown.




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