Hospital strike averted

WARREN – Service workers at St. Joseph Health Center voted Friday afternoon to approve a new labor contract, just days before they were set to walk off the job.

The contract ensures no work stoppage for the 180 staff and service workers at the hospital.

Bobbi Jo Terwilliger, business agent for Teamsters Local 377, said the contract calls for a 2 percent pay increase each year for three years, increases the hospital’s offer for contributions to a new retirement plan and freezes the workers’ out-of-pocket costs for health insurance for the life of the contract.

“We got some good subcontracting items to help protect jobs,” Terwilliger said. “It was all about protecting the jobs.”

Workers had objected originally to the hospital’s plans to eliminate a pension plan and go, instead, to a 403B retirement plan that involves contributions from employees and management.

Terwilliger said management softened the blow with that by agreeing to contribute $1,400 per year to the plan in addition to a 50 percent match of any employee contributions to their retirement.

“We do have some gains in this contract, so we are pleased,” Terwilliger said.

The members have been working without a contract since Jan. 31. They had been scheduled to strike beginning Monday.

Teamsters Local 377 represents service workers at the hospital, including kitchen workers and transport staff.