SEIU Establishes Priorities for Hospital Contract Negotiations This Year
The San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday looked at the Service Employees International Union's priorities for negotiating contracts for hospital workers this year, including a commitment to oppose a measure on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot to repeal a law (SB 2) that will require some employers to provide health insurance to employees or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage (Raine, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/27). Under SB 2, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, employers with 200 or more employees will be required to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into the state fund. Employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance only to workers by 2007. The law will exempt employers with fewer than 20 employees. The law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 employees unless the state provides them with tax credits to subsidize the cost of health insurance for employees (California Healthline, 4/27). According to the Chronicle, SEIU officials also want hospitals to establish patient care committees to improve staffing levels and make decisions about patient care issues, contribute to employee training funds and increase job standards to attract and retain qualified employees. This year, SEIU is negotiating on behalf of about 50,000 workers at 73 health care facilities operated by 23 employers throughout California, the Chronicle reports.
SEIU contracts are set to expire at various times, beginning Friday at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/27). According to the Contra Costa Times, SEIU Local 250 and Alta Bates representatives "disagree about key issues to discuss" and another round of contract talks is not scheduled to take place until May 7, one week after the current contract expires. Alta Bates negotiators want to focus discussions on wages and worker benefits, but SEIU representatives want to expand talks to address their established priorities. According to the Times, Alta Bates, which is owned by hospital chain Sutter Health, has offered an annual 3% salary increase over the next five years for most employees represented by SEIU and a salary increase for licensed vocational nurses of 8% in the first year and 3% in subsequent years (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 4/28).
Additional information on SB 2 is available online.