Partners criticized for nickel-and-diming lowest-paid employees

Partners HealthCare, which has come under fire for charging what some critics say are high prices for care, is conversely nickel-and-diming its lowest-paid employees, The Boston Globe reported.

Massachusetts' largest healthcare system has recently proposed compensating its lowest-paid employees at the rate of $10.25 an hour, with a 3 percent raise over the next two years, according to Globe columnist Shirley Leung. Those workers include housekeepers, secretaries and other low-skill employees.

However, Leung noted that the minimum wage in Massachusetts will go up to $9 an hour on Jan. 1, and will reach only $11 at 2017. In other words, the proposal would merely shadow the Bay State's minimum wage over the next few years. Meanwhile, Partners' highest-ranking executives recently received double-digit pay increases.

By contrast, Lynn Community Health Center starts its lowest-skilled employees at $13 an hour, part of a new pact that was approved in October. The increase was a significant bump from the $11.38 floor wage it offered prior to the new contract. And employees who had been with the organization for 10 years or more were immediately bumped up to $15 an hour if they were not earning it already.

"Lynn Community Health Center, where about half the 550 employees are unionized, pays better than an institution owned by the richest healthcare system in the state, and one built partly by charging the highest prices around," Leung wrote. She quoted Lynn Health officials who said raising the wage was appropriate given the demands of the jobs being performed.

Partners, which has grown in recent years through a series of mergers and acquisitions, retains 28 cents of every dollar spent on healthcare in Massachusetts.

Leung also compared Lynn Community's wages to a North Shore Medical Center housekeeper, who is currently earning $11.54 an hour after being employed at the Salem facility for nine years.

Although Leung has praised Partners for keeping jobs in the state, "on the subject of how Partners treats its lowest-wage workers, I do think the organization has lost its way," she concluded.

To learn more:
- read the Boston Globe article (subscription may be required)

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