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Tentative accords reached at Forum

Published: Fri, September 17, 2010 @ 12:09 a.m.

By Grace Wyler

Unions vote next week; ONA reps not ‘satisfied’




Unions representing more than 1,500 workers at Forum Health have reached tentative agreements with Community Health Systems.

But some union leaders remain skeptical that the Fortune 500 company will value quality care over the bottom line.

After more than a month of negotiations, Community Health Systems, the Tennessee-based company that purchased bankrupt Forum for $120 million Aug. 10, has concluded talks with the Ohio Nurses Association and Service Employees International Union District 1199 this week, union officials and company representatives said Thursday.

The ONA represents registered nurses at Forum’s Northside Medical Center in Youngstown and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland, and the SEIU represents service workers at Northside and Trumbull Memorial Hospital of Warren.

Union members are scheduled to vote on the agreements early next week. Officials said they would not reveal details of the agreements until after the vote.

But ONA representatives were “less than satisfied” with their negotiations with CHS, said Eric Williams, president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association at Northside. Williams declined to give details about the agreement.

“What we found was that CHS had little concern for the value of our registered nurses or the importance of their work,” Williams added in a statement. “CHS representatives left the ONA RN representatives with the impression that profit ranks higher than quality and RN satisfaction in the CHS list of priorities.”

The union that represents the remainder of Forum’s 3,500 to 4,000 workers is still in talks with CHS, said company spokeswoman Tomi Galin.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represent nurses at Trumbull Memorial and Hillside, met with CHS on Thursday, and the parties are set to meet again next week, she said.

AFSCME officials did not respond to calls to comment.

“We are very pleased that agreements have been reached with the ONA and SEIU,” Galin said. “We are making good progress in our efforts to finalize the acquisition of Forum Health and hope that the transaction will be completed soon.”

The purchase, approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kay Woods on Aug. 10, still is being reviewed by Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who must sign off on the proposal before the transaction can be finalized.

Cordray said Thursday that review is nearly complete.

“We are very close,” he said. “Possibly as soon as early next week.”

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