HAZARD, Ky. (AP) - Appalachian Regional Healthcare workers have accepted a labor contract days before a strike had been planned.
Media reported that employees that belong to the United
Steelworkers Union voted on Friday to accept the agreement.
The union represents around 2,000 workers at ARH facilities in Kentucky and West Virginia including licensed practical nurses, certified nurse aids, and clerical, maintenance and housekeeping staff.
It had filed a noticed that employees intended to strike if an agreement wasn't reached by Sunday, when their current contract expires.
Terms of the agreement weren't released, but both sides said they were pleased with the plan.
The contract is good for three years.
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ARH officials said Tuesday a tentative new labor agreement has been reached with the United Steelworkers Union.
The current labor contract between ARH and the USW expires on Sunday and workers had threatened to strike as early as Monday if a new deal was not reached.
"ARH and the USW worked through some very difficult issues to reach this tentative agreement. This demonstrates our mutual commitment to our patients and our employees, " said ARH spokesperson,Julius Pearson.
Around 2,200 ARH workers are members of the union and they include LPNs, clerical workers and X-ray and lab technicians.
The deal comes after Monday's counter offer from the USW that featured compromises in areas that had been dividing the two sides, including health insurance hikes.
"This tentative agreement reflects compromises by both parties, which were made in the long-term best interest of all stake-holders, including our communities we serve and all the employees who support the mission and the organization," said Pearson.
Details of the agreement are not being released because the deal is not yet official. Pearson said that will happen once USW employees vote to approve it. No word on when that vote will happen.
ARH has facilities across eastern Kentucky and in Williamson and Beckley, W.Va.
The employees are members of the United Steelworkers union and include licensed practical nurses, certified nurse aids, and clerical, maintenance and housekeeping staff at ARH facilities across eastern Kentucky and in Williamson and Beckley, W.Va.
The current labor contract between ARH and the union ends Sunday.
The union has already filed a strike notice and a walk-out could happen as soon as 12:01 a.m. on Monday, April 1.
"We're doing everything we can to avoid a strike," USW District 8 representative Roger McGinnis said. "We'll do everything possible to avoid that. We're not looking forward to that. We have no interest in striking if we can avoid it."
The USW submitted a counter proposal when the two sides met Monday.
McGinnis said the proposal features compromises on issues that have been at the forefront of disagreements, including medical insurance hikes.
"We're continuing to bargain over those issues," he said. "Especially the medical, it's a big concern. It's a lot of added costs to our members and we're hopeful this time we can minimize that as much as possible."
ARH officials said in a statement Monday that “ARH is committed to bargaining in good faith and will continue to do so until a contract is reached."
USW officials said they are hoping to hear back from ARH sometime Tuesday in regard to the counter proposal.
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The union represents licensed practical nurses, certified nurse aids, and clerical, maintenance and housekeeping staff at ARH facilities across eastern Kentucky and in Williamson, W.Va.
A letter from the CEO and President of ARH to employees is now posted on ARH’s website.
Besides telling employees about the 10-day “intent to strike notice”, the letter indicates that the USW has broken off negotiations until March 25.
Contract talks started in January according to the letter from ARH President and CEO Jerry Haynes.
Haynes said the not-for-profit ARH will proceed with plans to ensure that patients are cared for if the strike occurs.
The Harlan Daily Enterprise newspaper reports that attempts to contact Roger McGinnis, president of the local USW, on Thursday evening were unsuccessful.
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