MCT REGIONAL NEWS
By Cassie Shaner
The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.
Dec. 23--WVU Hospitals (WVUH) will re-assign employees, and extend shifts and add others to cover for 868 union workers expected to go on strike Dec. 31.
"Our top priority is to continue to provide high-quality patient care," WVUH President and CEO Bruce McClymonds said at a media information session Wednesday. "We are not expecting to have any change in the scope of our services or the quality of services."
AFL-CIO Local 814 issued its 10-day strike notice to WVUH officials following stalled contract negotiations Tuesday. Union members rejected a proposed three-year contract agreement Friday, and they plan to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 31, if an agreement is not reached before then.
The union's existing contract agreement expires on New Year's Eve.
Local 814 represents housekeepers, food service workers, phlebotomists and other technicians. McClymonds said about 3,500 of WVUH's 4,400 employees -- excluding doctors and residents -- will remain on the job during the strike, and temporary and casual employees will likely work more hours.
"We will cover the work," McClymonds said.
WVUH officials are working with their attorneys to sort out federal and state strike rules, but McClymonds said none of the workers who go on strike will be fired.
"Their jobs will still be here when they get done," McClymonds said. "Hopefully, it will be a short strike. Hopefully, the issue will get resolved."
WVUH's "last, best and final" contract offer includes pay increases of 45 cents per hour in 2011, 50 cents per hour in 2012 and 50 cents per hour in 2013 for full-time employees. Though health care costs would also rise, McClymonds said union workers would receive a net pay increase of 8.6 percent.
"We think that's a very generous offer, given where we are with the economy, given where we are with health care and the future potential impact of health care reform, which we think will be negative on this hospital," McClymonds said. "It's a significant commitment."
But Local 814 Business Manager Sherri Dezzutti said the proposal won't amount to an 8.6 percent pay increase for most union workers.
"They are basing that on a 40-hour work week for everybody. A lot of our people only work part-time," Dezzutti said, and as such, will receive 50-cent increases in pay and insurance premiums during the proposed contract's first year. "Their entire 50-cent increase will go to cover their benefits."