Hospital workers making strike plans

WARREN – About 180 service workers at St. Joseph Health Center are prepared to walk off the job 6 a.m. Monday, but will vote at least one more time on a contract offer before then.

Members of Teamsters Local 377 issued an intent to strike notice last week after narrowly defeating what the hospital then had called its “final best offer.”

Since then, however, the hospital has made some changes to the offer, and the union members agreed to vote again on Friday, said Rich Sandberg, Local 377 president.

Still, workers planned to meet Wednesday to organize strike plans.

A letter dated Friday and sent by the hospital to its employees indicated the hospital is making contingency plans to ensure that quality of care to patients is maintained in the event of a strike.

Before the previous vote, Sandberg said the workers were dissatisfied primarily with the proposed wage increase of 2 percent a year for three years. Sandberg said the average worker now makes about $10 an hour.

Other issues under negotiation with the Warren hospital administration included changes to the health insurance plan and converting a defined pension plan to a plan in which workers would contribute and be matched, Sandberg had said.

On Wednesday Sandberg declined to give specifics of the latest offer, but said the changes to the offer were minor.

The members have been working without a contract since Jan. 31.

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