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Pension remains concern at Armstrong

| Saturday, April 7, 2001

KITTANNING: After working three years without a contract, Armstrong County Memorial Hospital nurses overwhelmingly ratified a two-year agreement Friday night.

The contract includes a 3 percent pay raise for each year of the contract, longevity increases and partially funded health insurance by the hospital for dependents.

Reaction to the contract was mixed, according to nurses who were a part of the negotiating team, but 125 nurses voted in favor while 38 voted against. Two hundred and thirty-nine nurses are represented by the union.

'The contract was approved by a 77 percent margin,' said Gilbert Gall, union spokesman for the Armstrong Nurses Association/Healthcare PSEA.

'We were a little bit surprised that the margin was that high. It may be partly because a significant number of people who were disappointed with the contract were able to find enough in there to support it,' Gall said.

Nurses were pleased to have reached an agreement, although they had not received everything they wanted, he said.

'It's our first contract,' said Carolyn Oresick, a registered nurse at the hospital and a member of the contract negotiating team. 'There's still a lot of room for improvement.'

She said the nurses would have submitted another strike notice had the contract not been ratified.

They staged a one-day strike March 22, citing the lack of a contract and other working conditions, including mandatory overtime, hospital plans to have nurses pay 100 percent of dependent health-care costs over a nine-year period of time, lack of a pension plan and wages.

Contract terms
  • Three percent wage increase each year.

  • Twenty cent-per-hour longevity pay increase for employees with 10 years seniority; 25-cent increase for those with 15 years or more seniority.

  • Ten percent employee payment for dependent health care effective July 1, 2001, to increase to 15 percent on July 1, 2002.

  • Pension plan under review by consultant with the hospital expected to commit on a percentage by Jan. 1, 2002.

  • Limited mandatory overtime to be assigned on a reverse seniority rotating basis with nurses allowed to refuse it twice during a six-month period.
  • 'In the contract, the hospital is limited to the amount of time a nurse can be mandated (to work overtime). It will be done on a rotating basis by reverse seniority,' said Lisa Mohney, a registered nurse and a member of the contract negotiating team. 'We'll also get a 3 percent increase each year.'

    Pension remains a concern. It has only been addressed by the hospital's hiring a consultant. Mohney said that issue was a reason the contract was for two years and not longer.

    'Pension is being reviewed into the language of the contract,' said Michael Podrasky, hospital spokesman. 'The hospital has hired a consultant. Our commitment date will be Jan. 1, 2002. We don't have a percentage commitment right now, but it is under review. This is an investment into people's futures and the hospital wants to be very prudent.'

    Podrasky said nurses with 10 years' seniority at the hospital will receive a 20 cent-per-hour longevity increase, in addition to normal wages and the 3 percent annual increase, while those with 15 years or more seniority will receive an additional 25 cent-an-hour longevity increase.

    He also said nurses and hospital officials agreed nurses will pay 10 percent of the dependent health insurance this year and 15 percent next year.

    'The hospital is very pleased with this agreement. It required a lot of hard work on both sides,' he said. 'We feel it is fiscally and financially responsible, although we do have some challenges ahead.'

    Michelle Start can be reached at mstart@tribweb.com

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