Assembly takes on Bartlett impasse

Hospital, union disagree on health care and extent of salary increases

Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Juneau Assembly began acting as a quasi-judicial committee in Bartlett Regional Hospital negotiations Monday.

The Assembly, which will settle the dispute at a later date, asked questions and heard the negotiators' positions.

Since September, hospital managers had been negotiating with union representatives to renew a contract that covers 240 employees. In April, hospital officials announced the negotiations had reached an impasse as the union representatives and members refused to accept the hospital's last offer. The old contract expired in January.

The sides couldn't agree on the coverage of health care and the extent of salary increases.

Union representatives said employees would have to pay more to keep the same benefits or have reduced health care in the management-proposed contract. The contract proposed a 1 percent wage increase in the first year and 1.1 percent in the second and third years.

"They are making health care unaffordable to the employees that provide those services to the patients of the communities in need of health care," said John Bukoskey, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 200.

He said the city would lose medical staff to other communities if the Assembly approved the proposed contract.

The new contract called for transforming the hospital's retirement policy to the three-tier system as the rest of the city employees have now.

Parry Grover, attorney for the hospital, said it is unreasonable that hospital employees won't accept a health system that the rest of city employees have. He said Bartlett already offers one of the best benefits packages in the state and the nation.

Depending on the individuals, management said the new system would allow single employees to pay less but employees with families would have to pay more if they want the premium health coverage.

Sheila Bateman, a support staff who has worked at Bartlett for five years, said it is unfair that they need to absorb a loss to keep the same health benefits.

It is unknown when the Assembly will make its final decision on the issue.

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