New Contract at St. Mary’s of Michigan

Some 400 members of Local 9899 last week ratified a three-year contract that settles longstanding concerns over pay grades and includes across-the-board market adjustments to wages. The agreement also leaves room for additional pay raises over the life of the contract.

The biggest concern for the bargaining unit, which includes nurses’ aides, phlebotomists, lab assistants, unit secretaries and other support staff at St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw, Mich., was fixing a pay grid that had been stuck in the contract since the local ratified its first agreement in 2005.

The grid ostensibly set pay grades for workers based on experience, but over time the grid had become so compressed and misused that new hires were often making the same or more as long-time veterans.

“It was a nightmare,” said Local 9899 President Jackie Anklam. “We’ve tried to get rid of it the last three contracts.”

This time, the unit was successful and instituted a simplified wage guide that sets a minimum, medium and maximum rate for new hires. The contract also staggers market adjustments to wages and increases the top pay rate to reflect and benefit seniority.

Looking for creative solutions

Anklam credits the breakthrough to the advanced work the bargaining committee did devising creative solutions.

“We did a lot of work preparing, pulling the contract apart, comparing it to other agreements,” she said. “Management was finally able to see that we were just trying to fix things that they knew were problems.” 

In addition to eliminating the grid, the unit was able to bargain for “me too” language, meaning that if the hospital gives an overall raise or bonus to non-union associates, bargaining unit members will receive it as well.

The new contract also contains a provision that if members fail to receive a raise in a given year, the local can come back to the table to bargain over wages. The market adjustment, which is not the same as a raise, does not count as this year’s raise. 

Anklam said she thought the success of the contract was also due to the relationship between the local and the hospital, which is finally beginning to mature. “We’ve been working to build this relationship with the HR director, and it made a big difference,” she said. 

In the end, the contract was settled in just four days of bargaining, and for the first time, management agreed to split the costs of printing the new contracts. It is also providing the local office space in the hospital and will pay for the lost time of the bargaining committee.

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