SEIU Healthcare Michigan, one of the largest healthcare unions in Michigan, reached an agreement Monday with Southfield-based Beaumont Health over a three-year contract that covers nearly 1,000 Beaumont support employees.
The agreement, reached after difficult discussions over 18 months, includes a 2% immediate signing bonus and a 5% raise over three years, including 1.5% in each of the first two years and a 2% raise in year three, SEIU officials said.
Workers covered include service, maintenance, housekeeping workers, dietary aids, certified nursing assistants and patient sitters.
Patient sitters, who were not included in the original contract, were added as a classification under collective bargaining in the new contract. They will receive a pay raise from $9.25 per hour to $12 per hour. Patient sitters will also receive some additional benefits including four additional days of paid time off and overtime with guaranteed hours for their status.
"This victory could not have been achieved without dedication and strength of our union workers," Ken Haney, SEIU Michigan's vice president, said in a statement. "Our workers refused to give in, despite negotiations dragging on for many months."
Beaumont said it is glad to have the new contract approved.
"We are pleased Beaumont service and technical employees at our Taylor, Trenton and Wayne hospitals overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new labor contract," Beaumont Health Chief Human Resources Officer Aaron Gillingham said in a statement. "We spent the last 20 months negotiating with SEIU Healthcare Michigan.
"As always, our objective is to provide all Beaumont employees with market-competitive wages and benefits regardless of whether or not they are represented. The wages in this new agreement are fair and consistent with pay rates elsewhere in the market. We strongly believe Beaumont Health is the best health system in our region to work and receive care."
Over the past six months, SEIU union employees at Beaumont staged several protests and rallies to promote their cause. One included a demonstration at Beaumont CEO John Fox's house in Bloomfield Hills. Beaumont union workers were upset that Fox's compensation increased by at least 80% to more than $5.6 million in 2017.
"There were a few times when people wanted to give in, but they knew they needed to do right for their patients," Haney said. "This is a fight not just for workers, but for our patients. Our workers didn't want to put patient safety at risk, as short staffing is still a concern at Beaumont."
SEIU said one reason the contract took 18 months to achieve is that Beaumont didn't initially want to increase union workers wages at the 2% level, an increase Beaumont recently granted nonunion workers, according to the union.
Gillingham took issue with how SEIU characterized the union discussions.
"Unfortunately, during negotiations, the SEIU made a number of false comments and allegations about our hospitals and the patient care we provide," Gillingham said. "We're disappointed the union used those kind of smear tactics during bargaining, and that it apparently is continuing to do so even after its members have ratified the contract. We hope the union will stop its antics and work with us to have a more collaborative process and professional relationship in the future."
Last spring, the Michigan Nurses Association started a union drive at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak that has has turned contentious with pro- and anti-union nurses facing off. Beaumont has been cited with an unfair labor practice charge, which is under appeal.
This article was originally published in Crain's Detroit Business.