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ACMH Hospital, union avoid federal violation hearing

| Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, 7:18 p.m.

ACMH Hospital and its newest union reached an agreement to provide about 120 employees back pay and wage hikes last week, avoiding a federal labor law violation hearing.

The East Franklin hospital agreed to make back payments between $800 and $1,000 to members of its Licensed Practical Nurses and Technicians Union, along with a 2 percent wage increase.

The payments are compensation for lost wages dating back to Dec. 21, when administrators halted raises, said union spokesman Curtis Dahn.

“This is a step in the right direction and it's making our employees whole again,” Dahn said, noting the union has been without a contract since August 2014. “The employees were given their pay Wednesday.”

In a written statement to the Leader Times, Anne Remaley, the hospital's vice president of human relations, wrote that hospital administrators believed none of the union's charges had merit, but decided to settle to avoid the cost of litigation.

Hospital administrators withheld the union members' wage increases due to the ongoing negotiations, Remaley wrote.

“We didn't believe it made sense to give the union-represented employees the same increase as the non-represented group while we were in the process of negotiations,” Remaley wrote. “We were surprised that the NLRB has made this request because we thought the union wanted to negotiate for something other than what we were prepared to give them in the first place.”

In May and June, union officials filed several labor law charges through the National Labor Relations Board against the ACMH. The union claimed hospital officials didn't allow union members to strike or picket on hospital property, and it took away respiratory therapists' ability to create their own schedules as punishment for unionizing.

The union also alleged hospital management advised union members to not consult with their representatives, and refused to turn over information pertinent to negotiations.

A trial before an administrative law judge was scheduled for Oct. 27, but the settlement ends the need for that.

Along with the back pay, the technicians were given the ability to create their own schedules.

Union officials are also going to receive hospital financial documents and employee records, which had previously been denied, to help with negotiations, according to Dahn.

The union and hospital officials negotiated Monday, but haven't scheduled further sessions.

Dahn said he believes the two sides will be able to come to an agreement before the end of the year.

“Some of the things in this settlement were major obstacles keeping us from coming to an agreement,” Dahn said. “There are still some issues we need to address, such as staffing and basic economics, but it's entirely possible to see this contract settled very quickly.”

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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