SEIU workers at Forum OK pact

By Grace Wyler



Forum Health’s long-running bankruptcy saga seems to be reaching its end as unions representing Forum’s workers and nurses broker an agreement with the hospital system’s likely new owner.

Community Health Systems, a Tennessee- based hospital company, has reached pacts with the three unions representing more than 3,500 workers at Forum, despite tense negotiations and union concerns the company would value profits over its workers.

The Service Employees International Union District 1199 announced Wednesday that its members — more than 1,000 lab technicians and service workers at Northside Medical Center in Youngstown and Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren — voted overwhelmingly to approve agreements with CHS.

The agreements mark “the beginning of what we hope will be a bright and productive future between Community Health Systems and the caregivers we represent,” said Rob Johnson, hospital division director with SEIU District 1199.

Details of the collective-bargaining agreements remain confidential, said SEIU spokesman Anthony Caldwell.

The agreement for SEIU employees at TMH is set to expire March 31, 2012. Agreements for SEIU lab technicians and workers at Northside will expire March 31, 2015.

“Our members are very optimistic about the future,” Caldwell said. “Really what the workers care about is continuing to provide quality-care options in the Mahoning Valley.”

The SEIU is the second Forum union to reach an agreement with CHS. The Ohio Nurses Association, which represents nurses at Northside and Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland, voted to ratify their contract with CHS on Monday.

Forum’s largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, will vote on their agreement Monday. The union, which represents nurses and workers at TMH and Hillside, reached a tentative accord with CHS on Wednesday. The contract will cover all three AFSCME locals at Forum.

“We’re just happy that this is done,” said Thomas Connelly, president of AFSCME Local 2026, which represents nurses at TMH.

The agreement “is not what we love,” he said, “but we are happy to move on and out of bankruptcy.”

CHS is “very pleased that an agreement was reached with AFSCME,” company spokeswoman Tomi Galin said in an e-mail.

Community Health’s $120 million acquisition of Forum is expected to be finalized Oct. 1 in federal bankruptcy court.

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