EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 18, 2013

Steward Health Care workers reach deal

Company owns hospitals in Methuen, Haverhill

By Douglas Moser

---- — Steward Health Care, which operates hospitals in Methuen and Haverhill, agreed to a three-year contract with thousands of employees in the state’s largest health care union, Steward and union officials announced yesterday.

The deal covers nearly 5,000 healthcare workers in a range of service, clerical and technical jobs at eight of the Steward hospitals in Massachusetts, including Holy Family Hospital in Methuen and Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill, represented by Chapter 1199 of the Service Employees International Union.

Both Steward and 1199SEIU praised the contract and the negotiating process.

“We strongly support our SEIU employees and we’re proud to offer competitive wages and affordable health care benefits,” said Brooke Thurston, a spokeswoman for Steward. “We will continue to protect and create living wage jobs at Steward, which are critically important in the communities where we operate. More broadly, we’re honored to work with them in the advancement of social justice in health care.”

Jeff Hall, a spokesman for 1199SEIU, said existing joint labor-management committees, which review both work and patient care issues, bred a cooperative environment for negotiations, which took place in 15 sessions over the course of a year.

“The discussions around these negotiations were positive and productive,” Hall said. “Both caregivers from facilities and management worked toward a successful resolution for thousands of hospital workers across the state.”

The new contract, effective retroactively to Dec. 1 and expiring on Oct. 31, 2016, includes 2 percent raises per year each year over the life of the contract and guarantees a living wage for lower-wage employees like housekeeping and dietary workers.

SEIU covers employees ranging from housekeeping to imagery technicians, laboratory technicians, respiratory therapists, radiology techs, licensed practical nurses, nurse assistants, pharmacy techs, paramedics and secretaries.

Just fewer than 5,000 people are covered by the contract, including 752 at Holy Family and 225 at Merrimack Valley Hospital.

Besides Holy Family and Merrimack Valley, the hospitals include St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Quincy Medical Center, Norwood Hospital and Morton Hospital in Taunton.

The terms of the contract do not apply to Steward employees at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, or New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton. Workers at those three Steward-owned facilities are not part of 1199SEIU.

Registered nurses, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nursing Association and are not covered by this contract, have rallied against Steward several times over the last two years protesting staffing levels.

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