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Teamsters, St. James heading to mediation

Teamsters, St. James heading to mediation

The Teamsters Union and St. James Healthcare will start labor contract mediation on Aug. 20.

Members of the union, one of three at the hospital, have been working without a contract for over a year, according to Dan Doogan, secretary-treasure for the Teamsters regional district.

The union forced arbitration soon after signing a one-year contract nearly two years ago. Now wages have been frozen for over two years, said Doogan.

“The first year was under contract, which expired June 30, 2012, so we’ve been without a contract for one year,” Doogan said. “But our regular step increases and tenure pay have been frozen for two years, too.”

Previously, the contract allowed no wage increases from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, when Doogan said the union made certain concessions, including rate reduction on stand-by or on-call pay and the loss of one holiday.

On the other side, St. James has reduced staff and frozen wages in response to years of lost revenue.

Linda McGillen, St. James spokesperson and marketing/public relations director, said that the hospital reduced staff, including “multiple management positions,” from 2008 to 2010.

“The past several years we’ve suffered financial losses,” said McGillen. “During that time all employees have had to make changes in reduction of staff and wage freezes.”

McGillen said that in 2008 the hospital lost $15 million, in 2009 it lost $2.3 million and in 2010 it lost $8.5 million.

“We had three really bad years,” said McGillen. “We had to sacrifice.”

Finally, in 2012, the financial picture brightened, so St. James paid bonuses to all its employees, including Teamster members, McGillen said.

While the Teamsters claim that 33 percent of its workforce – or 50 employees — has been laid off permanently over the span, McGillen disputes those claims.

“That’s not true,” she said. “Over those three years, we did have a reduction in force, but it wasn’t 33 percent. It depends on how many are part-time, as it takes two employees to make one full-time employee.”

According to McGillen, the St. James negotiations team, chaired by human resources director Trisha Palmer and chief financial officer Jay Doyle, met with the Teamsters 10 times during the past 14 months — most recently last May, when the hospital “provided a 3 percent wage increase to its non-union employees.

The union didn’t agree with that.

“They rejected our offer of 3 percent and they came back with 6 percent,” added McGillen. “And we said, ‘No. Thanks, but no thanks.’ So we agreed to mediate.”

Doogan said: “There’s nowhere to move.

Kathleen Erskine of Federation Mediation and Conciliation Service in Seattle will serve as mediator. The FMCS is a branch of federal government that oversees mediations.

— Reporter Renata Birkenbuel can be reached at Renata.birkenbuel@lee.net and 406-496-5512.

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