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Contract talks at Dominican stall

Contract talks at Dominican stall

April 11, 2003
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ -- Contract negotiations between Dominican Hospital officials and about 450 technical and maintenance workers have reached an impasse after five months of wrangling and the arrest this week of two union leaders.
Members of Service Employees International Union Local 250 have been fighting for higher wages, better benefits and lower staff ratios to be included in the first contract since a chapter formed at the Soquel Drive hospital last July.
Chapter members include vocational nurses, housekeepers, food-service staff, radiology technicians and staff at Dominican Oaks, a retirement home next door on Paul Sweet Road.
The two sides deadlocked last week over the issue of retroactive pay workers want raises going back to November. The hospital requested a federal mediator be brought in last week but had received no response from the union by late Thursday. However, a union spokesperson told the Sentinel the SEIU was going to accept the offer.
Rhonda Hood, acting union shop steward and a vocational nurse, said she could lose her home unless the retro pay is approved. Hood, a single mother, said she had been planning on the extra money and is now a month behind on her mortgage payment.
“I basically have no money to even buy food right now,” said Hood, who’s worked at the hospital 33 years.
About 100 workers picketed in front of the hospital for two hours Wednesday afternoon. Hospital officials called the Sheriff’s Office for a citizen’s arrest after pickets became so loud they were disturbing patients in the cancer ward, said Penny Jacobi, hospital spokeswoman.
“They refused our request for quiet so we had to call the sheriff,” she said. “They were quite rowdy, with tambourines, bullhorns and noisemakers.”
SEIU field representative Greg Nammacher and union administrative vice president John Borsos were cited for disturbing the peace then released, according to Kim Allyn, sheriff’s spokesman.
Workers say they’re now paid 17 to 30 percent below market wages and are only trying to get staff up to the same level as other Catholic Healthcare West employees. CHW is Dominican’s parent company.
“We have employees at Dominican Oaks who have been here for years and don’t have health care for their children,” said Gary Jackson, the hospital’s food and nutrition coordinator. “It’s unconscionable.”
But hospital officials say they’ve offered a fair contract that would make their tech and maintenance workers the highest-paid in the CHW system. Dominican’s offer includes benefit coverage for families, higher night shift and on-call pay, and an average 17 percent salary hike with some positions receiving as much as 38 percent, Jacobi said.
Retro pay on a first-time contract is rare for CHW hospitals, she said. Only one of 11 hospitals settling contracts with CHW over the past year received it, she said. That case involved two weeks of back-pay, Jacobi said.
Contact Jeanene Harlick at jharlick (at)

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