Alta Bates Medical Center, a Berkeley, Calif., hospital that has battled publicly with its unions for three years, reached an early contract agreement with its service workers recently.
Members of Service Employees International Union Local 250 voted March 5 to accept a new contract well ahead of the old contract's expiration on April 30. The contract gives 370 workers a 3% increase immediately, retroactive to Jan. 1, plus 2% raises in 1997 and 1998.
The union membership approved the contract by an 80% majority over the leadership's recommendation to reject it. Ralph Cornejo, a Local 250 representative, said the new contract fails to address job security. It also lacks provisions to preserve union representation if the hospital is sold or subcontracts out services.
The union also wanted a patient-care committee to monitor Alta Bates' work redesign program. Alta Bates has been criticized by the California Nurses Association, the SEIU and other unions for its effort to change the way patient care is delivered within the hospital.
Alta Bates Vice President Ruth Robinson said she thought the contract signals "a new relationship....which will encourage trust and a positive working environment." Both the hospital's employees and the union "can look forward to a time of labor peace," she added.