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3 Forum Health unions OK contract changes



Published: Sat, October 28, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Longevity pay and other incentives are in the pact for some veteran workers.

NILES -- Members of three unions representing 1,200 employees of Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital overwhelmingly approved contract modifications union leaders said will provide financial relief to the hospital and help union members keep their jobs.

Members of Locals 2804, 2288 and 2026 of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees/United Nurses of America, which represents registered and licensed practical nurses, service and maintenance employees, voted Friday at McMenamy's Banquet Center, Youngstown-Warren Road.

Local 2804's vote was on a new two-year contract, with the same modifications accepted by the other two locals, said spokeswoman Debbie Bindas.

Bindas said the contract includes provisions for improved working conditions, improved leave and an extended pay scale of 10 rather than five steps. Built into the restructured wage scale are longevity pay and other incentives for veteran employees, she said.

Members also accepted the same concessions as the other two locals, including a wage freeze, a freeze on pensions in exchange for a 401(k) retirement plan, and a co-pay on health insurance premiums, she said.

Tom Connelly, UNA Local 2026 president, said the modifications also include union members' giving up some paid unproductive days such as personal days.

He said the new agreements will keep Forum Health facilities open and give the hospital system some ability to expand services, to "not just tread water, but swim."

He said the wage freeze is in effect now and other changes will likely take effect Jan. 1.

"I'm proud of our members as I know all the leaders are," he said. "Everyone looked at the big picture."

"Throughout discussions with management, AFSCME leaders advocated aggressively on behalf of their members and the patients they serve," said Dr. Keith T. Ghezzi, interim CEO of Forum Health in a statement.

"We are extraordinarily grateful for the contributions of AFSCME members that represent crucial financial relief and an important investment in the future of these facilities and their employees," Ghezzi continued.

The amended contract puts into place a new clinical care model that provides additional clinical assistance to strengthen and enhance health care, he added.




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