After voting for a second time on a contract offered by the Harlan Health and Rehabilitation Center to employees of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 14491-02, the contract was “overwhelmingly” rejected on Wednesday.
“One of the biggest issues for us was the fact the medical insurance is, basically, we’re at the mercy of the company and the employees there have to pay 40 percent of the plan costs,” said USW Local President Roger McGinnis. “As an example, if it costs $1,000 per month for the company, then the employee has to pay 40 percent of that. Well, the company is trying to go to a self-insured type of plan and we don’t know what we’re paying 40 percent of. We don’t even know what the coverage is. We don’t know anything. We’re just being told well, here it is — vote on it — it’s going to be 40 percent of a question mark.”
McGinnis continued, “For the company to let on there is no take-aways in this contract, I’d like anybody to tell me that’s not possibly a take-away. The employees feel that, basically, that this is a ‘pig in a poke’ deal for them. It’s just not clear what their medical will be. So, they don’t know what they’re voting on.”
McGinnis added the vote taken on Wednesday was “overwhelmingly against” the contact by the 81 employees involved in the contract dispute at the facility, located near Grays Knob. He said it was “rejected by a large margin.”
McGinnis said this is the second time this contact has been rejected. He said the first vote was taken on Sept. 25 and was “overwhelmingly rejected.”
McGinnis added the 2 percent raise offered in the contract would be 20 cents more on the employee’s hourly wage.
Gail Hensley, the facility’s administrator, responded by saying she was “disappointed” in the results of the vote.
“Again, we feel like our last, best and final offer was fair for both parties,” said Hensley. “As I said before, there were no take-aways. We offered a guaranteed raise of 2 percent on average for the first year; in additional to the fact their wages prior to the proposed raise are on the high end for this area and this industry.”
Hensley said in the proposed contract they offered “great” benefits such as sick, holiday and vacation pay, life insurance and short term disability, just to name a few.
She said the health care benefits offered have the company paying the larger percentage of the premiums than the employee. Hensley said “where we go from here will be up to the union.”
“The union is saying there is still room to bargain,” said McGinnis. “But when the company comes back to the table, even with the first vote, with very little signs to us that they will do much bargaining, there was very little change from the first vote to the second vote. It didn’t amount to anything.”
McGinnis said there is no immediate plan to strike at this time.
“There is no planned date of striking,” said McGinnis. “Right now, you have the government shut down, and then you have the fact we have to give the company a 10-day strike notice. We can’t do that until Friday. We’re just uncertain at this point when there will be a strike. We’re definitely not ruling out a strike if necessary in order to reach a fair agreement for those people. The union is just not seeing any signs the company is interested in reaching a fair agreement.”
McGinnis said the union stands “readily available to return to the table and work out a fair agreement.”
“Our main concern is reaching a fair and equitable agreement for those employees out there,” said McGinnis. “They work hard, probably have the hardest jobs out there in health care, and we think they deserve everything they get and then some. Our main concern is trying to make life better for those folks.”
Hensley responded to the health care issue. She said, “We don’t know what the plan is going to be yet. We negotiate that every year and try to get the best plan at the best cost for all employees. We did leave that open to be negotiated later on. It was the union’s proposal to do that and we did agree to that.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, firstname.lastname@example.org