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Forum Health enhances offer to nurses union



Published: Wed, July 4, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

The union represents more than 600 nurses at two Forum centers.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN — Forum Health is asking a nurses union to accept a one-year contract with no wage increases and a freeze of its pension plan.

The proposal would provide Northside Medical Center and Beeghly Medical Park with the opportunity to continue their financial turnaround, Forum said Tuesday in a letter to its employees.

The letter, which was posted on the company’s Web site, said Forum enhanced its offer during negotiations this past week.

New language in the offer calls for a buyer of Northside to employ necessary nurses from the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association. Also, nurses who are displaced from Beeghly would have “priority offers of employment” at Northside.

Eric Williams, union president, declined to comment, other than to say that negotiations are continuing. The union represents more than 600 nurses at Northside and Beeghly.

Benefits changes

Forum also said it was proposing a change in benefits to provide a package of vacation days and paid time off that is “similar to or better than what is standard in the hospital industry.”

It calls for nurses to receive four weeks of vacation, plus 10 sick days for full-time employees and five days for part-time employees. The offer also includes time off for six national holidays and three personal days for full-time workers and one day for part-time workers.

It didn’t list what current benefits are. It said the only changes in health care insurance would be in the prescription drug plan.

The offer includes changes to reduce overtime payments and gives managers more flexibility in scheduling staff when patient volumes are low.

Negotiations will continue next week with the help of a federal mediator, said the letter from David Swift, chief human resources officer.

Forum, which has reached agreements with two other unions, has been working to cut operating expenses since it announced it was in financial trouble in January 2006.

Swift said this is a critical period for Western Reserve Care System, which is the operating company for Northside and Beeghly.

Besides the contract, the company is looking to find a buyer that can make investments necessary to upgrade operations, he said.

Western Reserve Care System will not survive independently without finding a way to finance the maintenance, investments and improvements the system needs, he said.


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