HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The union representing 800 workers at Cabell Huntington Hospital said Monday it would go on strike Nov. 15 unless a new contract is worked out.
SEIU District 1199 issued a strike notice after its members overwhelmingly rejected the hospital’s latest offer in a vote that took place Saturday. The main disagreement appears to be over health care coverage for active workers and retirees. The proposal also included no pay raises according to the union.
SEIU District 1199 Deputy Director Joyce Gibson said the hospital’s contract proposal was “unbelievable.”
“Considering the amount of money that they’ve made,” Gibson told MetroNews. “We’re just literally in shock that they would even have these cuts and concessions on the table being as profitable as they are right now.”
The union claims Cabell Huntington had a $33 million profit last year. Gibson said they agreed to concessions in the 2010 contract because the hospital was struggling but not anymore.
“We believe wholeheartedly that part of that (profit) should be shared with the workers who provide that direct care,” Gibson said.
Cabell Huntington Hospital spokesman Charles Shumaker issued a statement Monday evening:
“We recognize that our employees are our most valuable resource and we are proud to offer a complete range of benefits at a time when many in our industry must reduce benefits for staff. In fact, total compensation (the combination of salaries and benefits) provided to all current and future staff will continue to remain higher than those at all other healthcare providers in West Virginia. The few benefit changes necessary would only apply to future, not current, employees and will enable us to prepare for the upcoming costs associated with the Affordable Care Act. We must plan for the future now so we can continue to provide the high-quality health care services our community expects and deserves.”
Shumaker said the hospital will return to the bargaining table next week with optimism that a fair agreement can be reached.
Gibson said the union is also ready to negotiate but also ready to strike if it has to.
“No one wants to strike in this situation. However, they are willing to do it to make the hospital understand that there is no way that they can afford these health insurance concessions and feed their families and be able to continue to provide for their own,” Gibson said.
The union represents LPNs, lab, service and maintenance workers. The hospital said it has a plan in place if a strike would occur.