Representatives of the 180 full-time and regular part-time nonprofessional employees at St. Joseph Health Center say 2 percent annual pay hikes for three years is not enough to offset increased health-care costs.
The contract between the employees, represented by Teamsters Local 377, and Humility of Mary Health Partners’ St. Joseph, expired Jan. 31.
The union received HMHP’s final offer Feb. 5, and it was rejected Tuesday by 95 percent of the members, who also authorized the union’s negotiating committee to call a strike, said Bobbi Terwilliger, Local 377 business agent.
The major issues are wages, health care and freezing the employees’ defined-pension plan in favor of a 403(b) savings plan, Terwilliger said.
In its final offer, HMHP proposed 2 percent annual pay increases in each of the next three years, Terwilliger said.
The average wage of full-time nonprofessional workers is $20,000 a year, and the proposed raise would average about 20 cents per hour.
That increase does not cover the proposed increase in health-care contributions, which includes employees paying 13 percent of the premium, set by the hospital because it is self-insured, in 2014 and 15 percent in 2015 with no cap.
Earning an average $20,000, they do not make enough money to contribute to the 403(b) savings plan even though the hospital will match the contributions from 3 percent to 6 percent, Terwilliger said.
Under the defined- pension plan, employees did not contribute, and the hospital contributed 6 percent of an employee’s wage, she said.
Not many employees will be able to put money into the 403(b), and the hospital will save millions of dollars annually by freezing the defined-pension plan, said Richard Sandberg, union president.
Local 377 sent a letter to the hospital informing it of the vote to reject the final offer and requesting to go back to the bargaining table and try to hammer out a deal.
“We are optimistic we can come to a mutually acceptable agreement without any work stoppage,” a hospital spokeswoman said.
“The employees just want to be able to earn a living wage and have affordable health care and be able to survive. We have not heard back,” Terwilliger said.