WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | News

Talks Stall Between Union & Hospital

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Talks have stalled between an eastern
Kentucky hospital system and hundreds of workers who have been
striking for over a week, a union leader said Tuesday.
Workers at Appalachian Regional Healthcare in Harlan went on
strike last week due to disagreements on wages and health care
costs. The hospital system has facilities throughout eastern
Kentucky and West Virginia.
Efforts to reach an agreement last week "did not do very well
at all," and the two parties have not been back to the negotiating
table since Thursday, said Roger McGinnis, president of the United
Steelworkers union in Harlan.
Candace Elkins, a spokeswoman for Appalachian Regional
Healthcare, said hospital officials are waiting for a federal
mediator to call parties back for more talks. Elkins said the
strikes have not interrupted service to patients at ARH's nine
hospitals.
The hospital offered a contract proposal on Thursday, but union
officials complained that it raises medical insurance premiums and
cuts disability benefits in half.
"ARH right now is basically campaigning against us, saying
they've got a decent package on the table, which they do not,"
McGinnis said. "They're just not telling the full story."
McGinnis said about 50 workers were in Lexington on Tuesday to
picket the hospital system's corporate office.
The current average health premium for a single employee at
Appalachian Regional Healthcare is $11.31 and $22.62 for a family
payment, according to figures provided by ARH. The hospital system
hasn't increased premiums in six years, Elkins said.
Under the hospital's proposal to the union, health premiums
would increase by 50 percent from this year to 2009 for single
employees and employees with one dependent, according to a draft
posted on ARH's Web site. Family premiums would rise by 37.5
percent over that time period, the proposal said. Premiums would be
based on a worker's monthly salary. For example, an employee with
single coverage would pay 1 percent this year, 1.4 percent next
year and 1.5 percent beginning in 2009, according to the proposal.
The average monthly salary for hospital employees represented by
the steelworkers union is $2,262, according to figures provided by
ARH.
ARH has said its proposal includes a graduated wage increase of
up to 2.45 percent and health care benefits that eliminate most
out-of-pocket costs for using its facilities. Union officials said
workers shouldn't have to pay a higher price to use out-of-system
care.
The steelworkers union represents about 60 percent of ARH's
4,600 employees in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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