Hospital makes its ‘last, best and final’ offer in negotiations with workers’ union

LEWISTOWN – Negotiations toward a new contract continue today between Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital and members of the Service Employees International Union.

The two groups last met for discussion on April 15 and 16. On Thursday, Kay Hamilton, the hospital’s chief administrative officer, issued a statement to the hospital’s SEIU employees outlining the proposed changes to the hospital’s offer, indicating the changes were part of the hospital’s “last, best and final offer” to the negotiating team.

According to the statement, the revised offer includes salary increases across the board for all current employees, in addition to scheduled increases to the

current steps in their existing wage scales.

Phyllis Mitchell, vice president of marketing and community affairs at the hospital, said the salary increases will come in the form of a 2 percent lump sum during the first year of the contract, with step increases after that based on the wage scale currently assigned to each job.

“These are larger increases than have been offered before,” Mitchell said.

Under previous versions of the proposal, SEIU chapter president Teresa Williams said new wage scales could have prevented current employees from receiving any kind of step increases, which are raises given to employees at designated points in their employment.

Williams said the amended proposal is good news for current employees, but new employees could be affected. Those employees would be able to look at the wage scales and see that others who have been there longer than them are making more money.

“How fair is that?” Williams said.

Also included in the revisions were changes to proposed language regarding employee health insurance which could save between $1,000 and $2,000 for each employee and up to 25 percent more with a premium assistance program.

Previously, vested SEIU employees were able to contribute to a defined benefit pension plan. Hamilton’s statement indicates while the hospital will be moving to a defined contribution plan – that is, a 403(b) – individuals with money available in the original pension plan will receive those funds upon retirement.

“By law, we are required to pay them their pension benefit that they’ve earned. Going forward, it’s a different contribution plan, but they still get the benefits they earned,” Mitchell said.

The next negotiation meeting will be held at 4 p.m. today.