A New York healthcare workers union has agreed to give up part of a scheduled wage increase to stabilize its benefits fund under a tentative agreement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of New York, which represents 94 hospitals and nursing homes. The new collective bargaining agreement between the league and SEIU Local 1199 provides for 3% annual wage increases for a three-year period from May 1, 2005, through April 30, 2008. The union also agreed to forego one percentage point of a 4% wage increase scheduled to take effect June 1 -- the last year of the current contract -- and instead transfer the money to its National Benefit Fund. The fund is suffering a substantial shortfall because of skyrocketing prescription drug costs and greater-than-expected demand for healthcare services, officials said. The new agreement includes additional cost-saving programs for the fund and expands job security for workers. The agreement, which must be approved by the union and league memberships, would cover wages and benefits for 66,000 workers. A separate but similar agreement was negotiated for 5,500 registered nurses. -- by Cinda Becker
N.Y. union trades pay increase for benefit funds
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