One primary issue for the Warren nurses is wage parity with their counterparts at Forum's Mahoning County facilities.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
WARREN -- With the memory of a bitter 81-day Youngstown nurses strike to nudge things along, Forum Health reached an early tentative contract agreement with the union representing registered nurses at Trumbull Memorial Hospital.
Evonne Woloshyn, senior vice president of marketing and community relations for Forum, announced the tentative accord on a new three-year contract late Wednesday. She said no further details will be released until members ratify the proposal.
Meetings planned: United Nurses of America, which represents 450 nurses at TMH, will conduct a series of informational meetings at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sept. 19, with ratification votes to follow each session.
The union's contract is set to expire Oct. 1.
"All I can say is that there was a very, very concerted effort on the part of management and labor, and I feel the nurses will be very happy," said Tom Connelly, UNA president. "I'm very pleased, and the committee will definitely recommend approval."
Connelly would not discuss specifics of the tentative pact, in keeping with an agreement by both sides not to reveal details until the vote.
Parity issue: He said the contract proposal does address parity with the Youngstown nurses, however. TMH nurses are paid less than their counterparts at Northside Medical Center and Tod Children's Hospital in Youngstown, and they have said that parity is a major issue for this contract.
Forum's registered nurses at TMH earn an average wage of $20 an hour, while its Tod and Northside nurses averaged $23 an hour before their new contract took effect, giving raises of 4 percent per year for three years.
Forum and the UNA went to the bargaining table in late July, just four days after a contract was ratified for the 771-member Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, ending that union's long walkout. Forum and the UNA have been meeting about once a week since then.
Connelly said contract talks were "productive and mostly nonconfrontational."
He said union leaders decided to postpone the ratification meetings for about two weeks because they need time to prepare a written summary of the contract proposal for UNA members. Connelly will also be away for part of that time attending a work-related conference out of state, he said.
The contract proposal summary must also be reviewed by Forum management before it is distributed. Connelly said union leaders will try to make arrangements to have the ratification meetings at TMH, if possible, for the convenience of the nurses.
Strike background: Members of the YGDNA struck Northside, Tod and Forum's Beeghly Medical Park in Boardman on May 1, calling for an end to mandatory overtime. The walkout, which ended July 20, did not affect TMH or Forum's other medical facilities in Austintown and Trumbull County.
UNA, an arm of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2026, had its own 12-day strike in 1998 before ratifying the three-year contract that expires next month.