October 23, 2014

Elyria
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Hospital and nurses reach tentative deal

Mercy Regional Medical Center and its nurses reached a tentative contract late Thursday after a marathon negotiating session.

The nurses are scheduled to learn the nuts and bolts of the pact and vote on it during several meetings scheduled throughout today.

Al Bacon, secretary/treasurer of SEIU District 1199, declined to provide details about the contract, saying he wanted the nurses to see it first. Jennifer Cakir, marketing director for Mercy, also declined to comment on what the contract contains.

Until Thursday, negotiations had been at a stalemate, and the union had notified the hospital that the nurses would hold a 24-hour strike Oct. 19.

Some of the sticking issues were that the hospital, which is owned by the nonprofit hospital chain Catholic Healthcare Partners, wanted to switch the 590 members of the union from a pension to retirement plan similar to a 401(k) that relies on stock market investments. It also wanted to increase the nurses’ health care contributions to 20 percent from 17 percent with higher co-pays and deductibles.

The union balked at those changes, and also at the 1.7 percent annual increases in wages that the hospital was offering. Bacon has said that the nurses were seeking between 3 and 4 percent increases for each year.

The nurses’ three-year contract expired Aug. 31.

Last week, with the contract issue still unresolved, Mercy announced it was switching to a team-based nursing plan to increase efficiency, and it laid off 20 nonunion employees from the facility on Kolbe Road as a result. Those employees were in support staff positions and nonclinical roles.

Hospital officials contend union approval wasn’t required for the change, although union officials have disagreed and called it a labor violation. The union has said the hospital is understaffing to save money.

Hospital officials said the moves were made to save

$3.5 million in salary and offset the fact that the hospital expects to take in $12 million less from private reimbursements, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and as a result of shorter hospital stays.

Contact Julie Wallace at 329-7157 or jwallace@chroniclet.com.