November 11, 2006

John Muir, Union Settle With New 3-Year Contract

By Sandy Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Nov. 11--John Muir Medical Center has reached agreement with a labor union that went on strike at its Concord hospital twice this year.

The settlement ends a bitter, yearlong dispute at the hospital, formerly known as Mt. Diablo Medical Center.

Members of Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers-West overwhelmingly ratified the contract last week.

"John Muir still has a long way to go to build the kind of relationship with its own caregivers that other California health care employers have," said Dana Simon, administrative vice president of the union.

"But on the other hand, I think our members feel very satisfied that their struggle with John Muir bore a lot of fruit and was really worth it."

John Muir officials praised the agreement and said the new health insurance package should help contain costs while providing choices.

"Our employees help make our hospital one of the best in the area," said Alice Villanueva, senior vice president of human resources. "Our new contract agreement will enhance our ability to recruit and retain quality employees on our Concord campus."

The three-year agreement covers more than 450 housekeepers, food service workers, clerks, nursing assistants, some licensed vocational nurses and respiratory therapists.

They had been without a contract since October of last year.

The employees will receive wage increases averaging 18 percent to 32 percent over the life of the contract.

Health-care benefits became one of the biggest issues in dispute. Labor leaders were upset that one of two options would require employees to obtain medical care at a John Muir campus, if it has the service available.

That requirement will be part of the new contract, but John Muir agreed to reduce the employee contribution for a second health plan option, Simon said.

"People now have a more viable alternative that's affordable," he said.

The union did not succeed in getting more say in staffing levels, but did obtain restrictions on subcontracting and some layoff protections.

Reach Sandy Kleffman at 925-943-8249 or [email protected]


Copyright (c) 2006, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

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