CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Union workers at Cabell Huntington Hospital voted to approve a new contract offer Wednesday, following a tentative agreement reached between union negotiators and hospital executives early Wednesday morning.
Workers approved the agreement by an overwhelming margin, according to WCHS reporter Dan Matics, reporting from the scene in Huntington.
The vote averts a strike by the 800 union nurses, lab workers and service personnel in Service Employees International Union District 1199, which was set to begin Friday.
The union and hospital had been negotiating in recent months over a new collective bargaining agreement. The union's current three-year labor agreement was set to expire this month.
Workers voted to reject the company's initial offer Saturday, Nov. 2, and union leaders turned in a required 10-day strike notice the following Monday. Union officials said the offer contained no wage increases, "drastic changes" to employee health benefits and the elimination of health insurance for retired workers.
Hospital spokesman Charles Shumaker said last week the new contract would have still paid higher than average wage rates for hospital employees. He said the changes to benefits programs would not have applied to any current employees.
"The few benefit changes necessary would only apply to future, not current, employees and will enable us to prepare for the upcoming costs associated with the Affordable Care Act," Shumaker said.
The hospital and union negotiating teams met Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to reach a new agreement.