Hospital workers protest proposed cuts
About 35 members of the Service Employers International Union-United Healthcare Workers gathered on Grant Road in front of El Camino Hospital on June 29 to protest what one representative called "unwarranted" cuts to the union's pay structure and health benefits.
Carrying picket signs plastered with messages such as, "Shame on El Camino," the protestors chanted slogans: "Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Bad faith bargaining has to go!"
The SEIU-UHW represents cafeteria workers, janitors, dieticians, medical technicians, social workers and various other non-nurse, non-physician and non-administrative employees of the hospital.
According to Todd Schmitz, an SEIU-UHW representative, the workers at the protest are upset that the hospital is seeking to eliminate the free employee healthcare plan. Under the proposed plan, SEIU-UHW members would have to contribute at least 10 percent to insurance premiums for the lowest tier plan.
Workers are also upset that the hospital is seeking to reduce differential pay — which guarantees employees better wages for working irregular shifts — by 5 percent.
"They are clearly a hospital that is in good financial shape and they are calling for cuts that are unwarranted," Schmitz said.
Kim Reyes, a licensed vocational nurse at El Camino and member of the SEIU-UHW, said that she would have trouble supporting her 18-year-old daughter, who just started college, if the cuts go through.
"It's really important for me that I retain my coverage for her," Reyes said.
Reyes believes El Camino will become a less competitive hospital if the proposed cuts are implemented.
Hospital spokeswoman Chris Ernst saw things in a different light. She said that the proposed cuts are only aimed at putting all hospital employees on an equal plane when it comes to benefits and differential pay.
All other employees at El Camino Hospital must contribute 10 percent to insurance premiums for the lowest tier benefits package, Ernst said.
"Our goal is achieve parity at all levels within our organization," she said. "We believe our plan to be competitive and a very rich benefit package, even with the employee contribution."