Union workers, HCA hospitals reach tentative agreement

Union members will vote on a tentative agreement reached with five HCA hospitals, ending yearlong negotiations, the SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (SEIU-UHW) announced earlier this week.

The union had planned to hold a one-day strike at the five California hospitals owned by the Hospital Corporation of America (NYSE: HCA), but decided to resume negotiations with the aid of a federal mediator, reports the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.

SEIU-UHW and HCA officials reached the tentative agreement on Saturday, and the union's bargaining committee is asking its members to vote in favor, notes the Business Journal.

"HCA caregivers work under intense conditions and we were determined to negotiate a contract that ensured we were able to do our best at our hospitals," Art Arizaga, a sterile processing tech at Regional Medical Center in San Jose, said in a statement. "We believe the contract we won protects what we value as healthcare workers for our families and the communities where we work and provide care."

The tentative deal guarantees raises of 2 percent each year for four years, protects employer-paid healthcare and allows for career advancement and reimbursement. Additional raises to bring employees up to the current wage scale will range between 6 percent and 22 percent per year over four years, according to SEIU-UHW officials.

"Making sure our hospitals are providing pay and benefits that are at the market level--so good workers stay--was really important," said Juan Sanchez, an ER technician at Riverside Community Hospital. "For caregivers and our families, for our patients and the communities who rely on the care we provide--this contract is something to celebrate."

A vote on the agreement is expected by the end of the week, notes the Southwest Riverside News Network.

For more:
- see the SEIU-UHW press release
- read the San Fernando Valley Business Journal article
- read the California Healthline piece
- here's the Southwest Riverside News Network article