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Dignity Health will stay the course

While hammering out labor negotiations, French Hospital Medical Center aims to keep on

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To the San Luis Obispo County Community,

You may have recently seen activity regarding labor negotiations between SEIU (Service Employees International Union) and Dignity Health. As you may know, French Hospital Medical Center and Marian Regional Medical Center are Dignity Health hospitals on the Central Coast, which have technical and clerical staff employees represented by SEIU. Registered Nurses at French and Marian are not represented by SEIU and are not included in this labor agreement.

Over the next two weeks, we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached. During that time, there may be posturing and commentary. We have great staff at our hospitals and will always maintain a positive relationship with our employees, regardless of the activities and commentary by union representatives. We will continue providing market competitive wages and benefits to assure we retain our staff and have the capability to recruit additional staff to meet the needs of our patients and communities.

Over the last four years, employees at French and Marian represented by SEIU received an average annual salary increase of 7.0 percent per year, totaling 28 percent over the past four-year period. In addition, over the last four years, Dignity Health has paid the entire 32 percent cost increase for the fully employer-paid health benefits for employees and their families.

As part of the employee compensation package, Dignity Health provides a health insurance plan with no premium cost for employees and their family members, including children until the age of 26. In addition, Dignity Health employees receive a funded pension plan, which is fully paid by Dignity Health and an employer matching 403(b) retirement plan.

Discussions between Dignity Health and SEIU have been professional and productive, but the contract expired at the end of April and we still do not have a new agreement. Dignity Health is not asking for wage cuts or to eliminate fully employer paid benefits; we simply need to “slow down” the rate of increases for salary and benefits in the future. There are no contract issues or provisions related to staffing levels and patient care; staffing levels are determined by the individual needs of each patient and statute.

Please be assured that any notice of strike or strike activity will not, in any way, impact patient care or our ability to serve our communities. Despite any outward actions by union membership, we will stay the course and treat all of our employees with dignity and respect and, as always, provide for the health care needs and safety of our patients.

Alan Iftiniuk is president and CEO of French Hospital Medical Center. Send comments to rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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