A new chief negotiator has been named in the ongoing contract talks between ARH and the United Steel Workers. The ongoing strike is now entering the third week, but both sides say they remain positive and many people are hoping negotiations are coming to an end soon.
As of midnight tonight, it will have been two weeks since the United Steel Workers Union began striking at all Appalachian Regional Hospitals and clinics.
"The mood is still very good here on the lines. We're still very confident that we can reach an agreement and hopefully end this," said Hazard USW Union President Dwayne Herald.
Hundreds of workers went on strike due to disagreements over wages and health care costs.
"I don't mind the rain, the weather, I'll do what it takes, this is my second strike. This one seems to be worse than the first, but I'm ready to stick it out," said Harlan ARH Employee Veronica Eldridge.
ARH has named a new chief negotiator to head up the talks with the USW when negotiations resume. ARH officials say an attorney from Louisville, Joe Worthington, will take over as chief negotiator. They say Worthington has participated in labor negotiations between ARH and the USW. They say they're ready to return to the negotiating table and are awaiting a federal mediator to say when negotiations will resume.
"We were told to report back to Lexington on Monday to work on a comprehensive counter proposal for the company and it's our understanding we will be meeting with the company probably on Tuesday or Wednesday," Herald said.
Officials say it's been more than a week since contract negotiations came to a halt. The Steel Workers Union represents about 60 percent of ARH's 4,600 employees in Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia.
Both sides say they remain ready to continue negotiations. A date for negotiations to resume hasn't yet been set.