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Strike planned at ACMH Hospital in East Franklin on Tuesday

| Saturday, March 28, 2015, 2:06 a.m.

The 123-member union of licensed practical nurses and technicians at ACMH Hospital in East Franklin has planned a one-day strike for Tuesday.

The strike is being called to protest “unfair labor practices and bad faith bargaining,” said Curtis Dahn, the union's bargaining representative.

“This was our last resort, but we're still willing to meet with them in the days leading to the strike,” Dahn said. “We're hoping to avoid it, but they've refused to meet with us, which is highly unusual when a strike is looming.”

Dahn said workers and hospital administration have met about 25 times since negotiations started in August.

In an email to the Leader Times, Anne Remaley, the hospital's vice president of human relations, would not comment about negotiations, but wrote that hospital officials plan to continue bargaining with the union.

“It's unfortunate that the union has chosen to strike as a way to force the hospital to agree with its demands while the parties are still engaged in bargaining,” Remaley wrote. “The hospital will continue to meet and bargain in good faith, but does not intend to allow a strike or threat of strike to concede to union demands.”

Three days of negotiations are scheduled in April. The union is seeking the addition of one technician to each shift, cost-of-living wage increases and a larger contribution by the hospital into employee retirement plans.

It also wants the ability for staff to do its own scheduling — which is the way it was done for 25 years before July, when administration took over the duty, Dahn said.

The nurses and technicians joined the union in June. The union alleges in an unfair labor practice filing with the National Labor Relations Board that the hospital took away scheduling to punish workers for starting a union. “There are several more charges we plan to file against the hospital, but we're going to wait until they finish investigating our scheduling situation,” Dahn said.

Remaley said scheduling changes were done before the employees unionized. She also dismissed the union's charge that the hospital is under-staffed.

“There is, and will be, adequate staffing at the hospital to ensure all patients receive treatments,” Remaley said. “No patient has ever been, or will be put in, a health threatening situation because of a lack of staffing — the union's claims are false and shamefully intended to scare the public.”

The hospital contracted with a temporary staffing agency to provide workers for three days and may not immediately return all striking workers when the strike ends, Remaley said.

“My hope is that the hospital will come to their senses and come to the bargaining table with intentions of getting a contract done,” Dahn said. “We have no control over their actions, but we're looking to come to an agreement and move forward.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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