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ST. ELIZABETH'S STRIKE Hospital and union reach deal



Published: Wed, May 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Workers will remain on the picket lines until a vote takes place Thursday.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

BOARDMAN -- Striking maintenance and service workers at Humility of Mary Health Partners facilities are set to cast a vote Thursday that could put them back on the job.

The 870 striking workers will vote on a tentative contract agreement reached Tuesday night by negotiators for HMHP and the Teamsters Local 377, which represents the workers. Because of the large number of striking workers, two voting sessions will be conducted Thursday.

The sessions will be at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Teamsters Hall off Martin Luther King Boulevard in Youngstown. Half of the 870 striking workers will vote at each session.

Chris Colello, the president of Local 377, said the striking workers will remain on the picket lines at St. Elizabeth Health Center until they vote. Colello added that if they approve the agreement, the workers could be back on the job by 11 p.m. Thursday.

When asked whether he thought the workers would approve the agreement, Colello answered, "It's up to them."

Talks: Teamsters officials announced they had reached the agreement at 9:20 p.m. Tuesday. The announcement came after more than six hours of talks Tuesday and 12 hours of talks Monday at the Holiday Inn in Boardman.

The Teamsters had said there were 10 issues to work out with HMHP before the strike would end. Those issues included wages, paid vacation time, overtime and health-care benefits.

Bob Bernat, Local 377 secretary/treasurer, said he feels the issues are addressed in the tentative agreement. Bernat said he would not go into detail until the striking workers had a chance to review the agreement.

HMHP Spokesman Chris McCarty said he thought the agreement was fair to both sides.

"It lets us together get back to what we do best," McCarty said.

The workers have been on strike since May 12.

Raises: Talks between the Teamsters and HMHP began at 4 p.m. Monday and continued until 3 a.m. Tuesday. After the talks broke off Teamsters officials said they were optimistic a settlement could be reached, as HMHP officials had changed their offer on how raises would be paid.

The company's proposal called for hourly increases in each year of the three-year contract. An earlier proposal called for lump-sum payments.

The talks resumed at 3 p.m. Tuesday with a meeting between HMHP and Teamsters negotiators. After the meeting, the HMHP officials set up shop in a room on the second floor of the hotel, while the Teamsters discussed their options in a first-floor room.

At 8:20 p.m. the HMHP officials came down to the first floor to work out the final details of the agreement with the Teamsters. Colello described the talks as "good, old-fashioned, hard negotiations."

"St. Elizabeth's is a very difficult employer to negotiate with," Bernat said. "It's not the same old Catholic the-nuns-are-running-the-hospital facility. It's corporate America, truly corporate America we're dealing with."

McCarty, meanwhile, described the negotiations as cordial.

Forum Health: As the Teamsters put the final touches on the agreement that could put them back to work, the registered nurses at HMHP's competitor, Forum Health, remain on the picket lines. The strike continues today at Northside Medical Center, Tod Children's Hospital and Beeghly Medical Park in Boardman.

Talks are scheduled Thursday morning between Forum Health and the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, which represents the 771 nurses.

The YGDNA and the Teamsters Local 377 also are sponsoring a "Health Care Workers Rally" at 1 p.m. Saturday in Federal Plaza East. Colello said the Teamsters will participate in the rally even if the contract agreement is approved.

Charges: In a related matter, two members of Teamsters Local 377 have been charged in separate situations on the picket line at St. Elizabeth Hospital last week.

Richard Hollis of Parkcliffe Drive, Youngstown, an incinerator operator at St. Elizabeth's, was charged in Youngstown Municipal Court with assaulting a police officer, a fourth degree felony, and resisting arrest. Police say Hollis hit a hospital peace officer in the face and tried to elude arrest May 15.

Ray DePasquale of Scott Street, Hubbard, was charged with aggravated menacing and misdemeanor assault. Police say DePasquale pushed and verbally threatened a hospital police officer May 12.

hill@vindy.com




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