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Chambersburg Hospital talks continue

June 19, 1997

RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Negotiations on a new three-year contract between Chambersburg Hospital and more than 800 union employees including nurses continued this week with no agreement, the union's chief negotiator said Wednesday.

Eileen Connelly, secretary-treasurer of District 1199P/Service Employees International Union, said more talks are scheduled for June 24 and 25. The union membership has scheduled a meeting on June 26 to either ratify a new contract or take other action, including a strike vote, She said.

Union members voted last week to send an official strike notice to management, a legal requirement in labor negotiations with health care providers, Connelly said. "That means all union employees can legally walk out if there is a strike," she said.

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The last time the union struck the hospital was in 1979. The walkout lasted 25 days. The current contract expires June 30.

Sheran White, hospital spokeswoman, declined to comment on the negotiations Wednesday. She said the hospital has a strike plan that will ensure that patients, including inpatient, outpatient and emergency care, receive the same quality care in the event of a walkout.

"If necessary we will be prepared to downsize the hospital's operation, reduce admissions and transfer some patients whose stay would extend beyond a work stoppage," she said.

Chambersburg Hospital and Waynesboro Hospital are owned by Summit Health. Some Chambersburg patients could be transferred to Waynesboro if a strike occurs, White said.

There is no union at Waynesboro Hospital. "We haven't gotten there yet," Connelly said. She said her union represents 9,000 employees in 17 hospitals in Pennsylvania. The union has represented Chambersburg Hospital employees since 1973, she said.

White said management is negotiating in good faith. "We remain optimistic that negotiations will be brought to a successful conclusion without a strike. The current three-year contract gave Chambersburg workers a 4 percent pay raise the first year and 3 percent the third year plus job security, but job security more than wages is a main issue this time.

According to Connelly, the union wants job protection against such management proposals as daily staff reductions and job transfers to Waynesboro Hospital.

Management is negotiating for the right to transfer union employees to non-union jobs in Waynesboro and to send union workers home on days when the patient population drops, she said. The union wants no union workers transferred and is demanding that non-union employees be sent home on slow patient days, Connelly said.

Connelly said union negotiators are fighting a management plan to use non-union sub contractors for such departments as dietary, housekeeping and laundry.

The union also opposes a new managed health care plan that limits the number and location of physicians available to employees, she said.

Workers also want improvements in the pension plan. "Chambersburg Hospital is a financially stable institution making millions of dollars in surplus revenues each year, but yet cannot provide an improvement in the pension plan," Connelly said.

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