Brooks union may picket

Employees of Brooks Memorial Hospital delivered a 10-day notice of picket to management at Brooks Hospital this week. Members are planning to picket the facility from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday to protest the lack of a new labor contract.

Contract talks began in early March, but have made little progress even with the help of a federal mediator. The 1199 Service Employees International Union Bargaining Committee, made up of Brooks Memorial Hospital workers, says that the hospital, now affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is intentionally stalling negotiations by putting forth contract proposals that they know are unacceptable to the workers.

“We aren’t asking for much,” said Rosie Calph, a medical records clerk at Brooks Memorial Hospital for over 26 years, “just a fair wage for an honest day’s work and the hope that the hospital does the right thing for our community.”

Employees at the hospital will be picketing next week.

Brooks has been embroiled in financial turmoil over the last 16 months. Besides running a deficit, the hospital also has been loaning funds to the TLC Hospital, which it once partnered with, in Irving. That facility has received new life in the form of a federal $6.5 million grant.

The current 1199 SEIU contract, which expired April 30, was a three-year agreement and provided wage increases of at least 6.6 to 9.5 percent over the life of the contract, based on years of service. The contract covers licensed practical nurses, clerical, service and maintenance workers.

In June, 1199 SEIU negotiator Kathy Ville told the OBSERVER the talks were stuck.

“It’s a very senior workforce that has worked very hard for a long time for these benefits and these raises and benefits, not just the money, but the language,” Ville stated. “They want to rewrite it, from our perspective, to go with what UPMC thinks they should do. … They’re proposing a lot of drastic changes to re-write essentially the whole contract and the whole job descriptions, what people do and how much they get paid.

“We’re hoping to get a fair contract that maintains people’s wages and benefits and helps the more senior folks maintain employment.”

In addition to the expired contract with 1199 SEIU, the contract with more than 100 registered nurses expired at the end of June. A hospital spokesman said in June that the two sides had met for the first time that month.

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