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VALLEY HOSPITALS Talks progress in strike at St. E's, negotiator says



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



Lawyers and federal mediators spent the night negotiating, and talks are expected to continue today.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

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.

About 870 service and maintenance workers at St. Elizabath and other Humility of Mary Health Partners facilities have been on strike since May 12.

Talks 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.

Forum strike: Meanwhile, another strike by registered nurses at HMHP's competitor, Forum Health, continues today at Northside and Tod Children's Hospitals and Beeghly Medical Park in Boardman. No new talks were scheduled for the 771 members of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, which has been on strike since May 1.

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

hill@vindy.com




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