The new contract, which was scheduled to be ratified by Sept. 21, will provide a raise, increases in health and retirement benefits, and more paid time off to ECH staff represented by the Service Employees International Union-United Health Workers. SEIU-UHW advocates for a wide swath of hospital employees, from skilled technicians to unskilled laborers.
"We appreciate that El Camino Hospital leadership and the hospital board of directors worked closely with us on this agreement," Dave Regan, president of the SEIU-UHW, said in a statement.
Just as she said the agreement reached with the nurses signaled a cooling of tensions between the hospital and that union, ECH spokeswoman Chris Ernst said that this three-year contract demonstrates an improvement of relations between the SEIU-UHW and El Camino's top administration and board.
"I think that we have all learned a lot over the last year, which is why we came back to the table — because we really wanted to improve our collaborative relationship with all our unions," Ernst said. "We've really been striving to listen and understand what is important to their memberships."
A spokeswoman for the union could not be reached for comment.
Back in 2010, all hospital employees were asked to give up some benefits. According to Ernst, ECH officials had no choice but to impose the cuts, as the hospital was in uncertain financial waters. However, due to concerted savings and efficiency efforts begun back in 2010, the hospital can now afford to offer raises and more benefits to its employees, Ernst said. "That hard work has paid off."
The new agreement will provide union members with a 6 percent salary increase over the life of the contract. Additionally, SEIU-UHW members at the hospital will once again have a free health care option. (Back 2010, Ernst said, the hospital introduced a policy requiring all employees to contribute to the premium payments for all health plans.) On top of that, employees will now have the ability to accrue as many as 400 hours of paid time off — up from 350 hours.
"We are pleased to have reached an agreement and are encouraged by our collective commitment to build a healthier workforce," Tomi Ryba, the hospital's CEO, said in a statement.