SEIU Will Seek Extended Health Benefits, Better Working Conditions for Health Workers
The Service Employees International Union held a forum Thursday in Sacramento to discuss contract negotiations and SEIU's anticipated demands for control of staffing decisions and an "unprecedented level of benefits," mostly related to work conditions, the Sacramento Bee reports. The "first, and biggest, test of the union's negotiating clout" for SEIU -- the nation's largest health workers union -- will occur in contract discussions on behalf of 13,000 workers at 24 Catholic Healthcare West hospitals. Those negotiations are expected to be completed by the end of April. The union has a strong position with CHW because of a state shortage of skilled health workers and because most state facilities owned by the not-for-profit chain have the same contract expiration date, according to the Bee. In contract talks with CHW, SEIU has raised the issue of retiree health care coverage, which is currently covered by some hospitals in the state but not by CHW. SEIU is also seeking increased tuition reimbursement and job training programs. The current health labor shortage will allow SEIU's members -- including nurses, housekeepers, lab technicians and pharmacy aides -- to "pressure hospitals to invest in work force training," the Bee reports. Joanne Spetz, a University of California-San Francisco professor, said CHW's systemwide expiration date would usually give the health system the upper hand. However, the shortage of workers means "wage increases should be relatively easy to get. That gives the unions a window of opportunity to grab additional benefits they might not otherwise be able to get," she said. Over the next eight months, SEIU will negotiate contracts covering more than 50,000 workers at 73 health facilities in the state. SEIU contracts for workers at Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health hospitals do not expire this year (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 4/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.