AFSCME Units Approve Pacts with CHS

George Nelson, Youngstown Business Journal, September 28, 2010

Youngstown - Bargaining units represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees approved agreements Monday with Community Health Systems Inc., which is moving toward finalizing its purchase of the assets of Forum Health Inc. by Friday.

The three AFSCME units - Local 2026/United Nurses Association, which represents 450 registered nurses at Trumbull Memorial Hospital, 2804, which represents close to 600 service and maintenance workers at Trumbull, and Local 2288, which represents about 200 licensed practical nurses and maintenance workers at Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital - overwhelmingly ratified their agreements with CHS, said Tom Connelly, Local 2026 president, and Pam Shelton, Local 2288 president.

All three agreements contain wage freezes for the length of the contracts, which extend the current pacts by two years, incorporates the hospitalization plan proposed by Ardent Health Services Inc., which had sought to purchase Forum, and provides a 401(k) contribution match, Connelly said. In addition, sick time, holiday pay and vacation time policies remain as they are under Forum, and there is no outsourcing of positions, he said.

"We're satisfied," Shelton said of her local's agreement.

The amended agreements, which extend the current pacts by two years, eliminate the snapback provisions that had been negotiated to restore concessions bargained away by the units in 2008 and 2009, she said.

"We have to start somewhere. We need to get these people in there," Shelton remarked. "Hopefully, when we go back to bargain in our respective years we can get some of that back."

Because of the extensions, Local 2026's contract, which would have expired October 31, now will end October 31, 2012. The pacts for locals 2804 and 2288 extend to 2013.

Connelly said he is satisfied with the agreement and "I believe my negotiators are, too." AFSCME staff representative Deborah Bindas informed him that the lead negotiator for Community Health Systems congratulated her on the contracts and "looked forward to working with us in the future and that it should be a lot of fun," he reported.

"It culminates a long period of time, probably four or five years, where we just had our backs to the wall the whole time," he remarked.

Last week, bargaining units affiliated with the Service Employees International District 1199 and the Ohio Nurses Association approved agreements with CHS. The Franklin, Tennessee-based company bid $120 million for Forum's assets at a bankruptcy court auction August 5; the sale was approved five days later by US Bankruptcy Judge Kay Woods, who is overseeing Forum's Chapter 11 case.

Copyright 2010 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.