Workers at Catholic Healthcare West Reach Tentative Deal

August 14, 2006

Negotiators for registered nurses and other health care workers in California reached a tentative contract deal with Catholic Healthcare West hospitals over insurance for retirees, officials said Friday.

Employees at 24 Catholic Healthcare West hospitals and a nursing home in California will vote next week on whether to approve the agreement, said John Borsos, vice president of Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers West.

Some 14,000 workers are employed in California hospitals from Bakersfield to Redding.

“We believe this tentative agreement serves the best interests of both our employees and our patients,” Ernie Urquhart, the chain’s chief human relations officer, said in a statement.

The retiree health insurance issue was left unresolved during union bargaining with the hospital chain in 2004, when an agreement was reached on other issues.

The tentative deal involving retirees was reached after four months of talks. It calls on the hospitals to provide paid dental and vision insurance and to refrain from increasing prescription drug co-payments for the retirees.

The health care plan also features guaranteed access to an employer-provided Medicare supplement plan.

In addition, Catholic Healthcare West agreed to contribute up to $38,000 to the retirement savings plan of eligible employees to help offset health care costs, SEIU and the hospital chain said in separate statements.

The hospital workers’ current contract with Catholic Healthcare runs through 2008.

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