SALINAS, CALIF. - December 28, 2010: Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (SVMHS) announced today that it has successfully completed effects bargaining with the California Nurses Association (CNA), which represents more than 650 Registered Nurses who work at Salinas Valley Memorial. However, after six weeks of negotiating with representatives of the National United Healthcare Workers Union (NUHW), Salinas Valley Memorial announced that it is at an impasse in negotiations. Since mid-November, representatives from Salinas Valley Memorial have attempted to work with the union to formalize a structure for layoffs—a process known as "effects bargaining"—where the union and management negotiate the "effects" of the layoffs with provisions such as a rehire policy and severance pay. However, despite repeated attempts by Salinas Valley Memorial to provide a workable solution, NUHW representatives have rejected offers provided by SVMHS.
Salinas Valley Memorial has presented three different evolutions of a proposal to NUHW leadership. None were accepted. However, in last night's meeting, NUHW provided its first proposal since negotiations began - a "package proposal" based on language in the old union contract. Package proposals must be accepted in their entirety, or not at all. Because the package proposal went beyond the "effects bargaining" currently underway, and because Salinas Valley Memorial could not accept an "all or nothing" proposal, negotiators declared an impasse.
"It is particularly unfortunate that NUHW could not accept our latest proposal, since some of the provisions in it would benefit those employees who have been impacted by the recent layoffs, and those who will be impacted by future layoffs," said Bev Ranzenberger, Vice President of Operations at Salinas Valley Memorial. "The union's refusal to accept our proposal is denying benefits to its own membership."
NUHW represents approximately 40 percent of the employees at Salinas Valley Memorial, covering positions such as housekeepers, aides, and clerical staff. The average salary for members of NUHW is approximately $27/hour, which is about $56,000 per year. Adding 30 percent value in benefits, the package equates to approximately $73,000 annually per full-time equivalent employee. The other major union, California Nurses Association, already completed its effects bargaining with SVMHS, providing a smooth transition for its membership to the new workforce level.
"It is imperative that we work to contain the cost of healthcare for our Healthcare District," Ranzenberger said. "Because the recession has resulted in fewer people seeking medical care here and at hospitals across the country, we must staff appropriately. Anything above that would be irresponsible."
The poor economy has resulted in a lower census—fewer people doing elective surgery and more people putting off medical attention. As a result, fewer people are using hospitals today than before the recession hit. In a comparison to other hospitals in California, Salinas Valley Memorial ranks in the upper percentile for staffing levels. The hospital is committed to its plan to right size the workforce to meet the current census needs and to operate efficiently while maintaining quality care. In every case Salinas Valley Memorial meets or exceeds the state mandated guidelines of nurse-to-patient ratios.
Salinas Valley Memorial remains one of the largest employers on the Central Coast, with a staff of 1900 and an annual payroll including benefits of more than $235-million.
"Staff reductions are never easy," said Ranzenberger. "We wish we didn't have to reduce the workforce, but in light of this economy and the state of healthcare we must put the needs of the Hospital District first and make sure this Healthcare System will be viable for the future."