Union members speak out as talks continue

The contract between Mount Nittany Medical Center and Service Employees International Union, the group representing nearly half of the hospital’s workers, lapsed at midnight Thursday.

Representatives for the union are talking about what they want to achieve as the negotiations push forward into next week.

According to the SEIU, a “critical negotiating session” will take place Tuesday, and a vote of the employees is planned two days later.

Scott Young, MRI section head at the hospital, is a representative of the negotiating committee. He said in a statement Friday that the union has been in negotiations since April, focusing on “protecting quality care and good jobs for the community.”

“But our employer has been focused on making our retirement benefits less secure and making our health care less affordable, despite our hospital making more than $66 million dollars in profit over the last three years,” he said.

The hospital’s position is somewhat different.

“Our goals are to achieve fair, responsible planning for the financial future of our employees and to make the best possible decisions today to ensure a financially stable outlook for the future. We continue to offer all of our services in the communities that we serve,” said Director of Marketing and Communications Nichole Monica.

MNMC is one of the largest employers in the county, with 2,400 people on the payroll. The facility is the only hospital in Centre County and the closest hospital for many in surrounding counties.

“We are taking a stand against this trend and ensuring that high deductibles don’t stand in the way of employees getting the timely care we need. As hospital workers at one of the largest employers in our region, we are standing up for affordable health care and good jobs for all working people, not just ourselves,” Young said.

Monica said talk of a strike is premature, and that federal law requires 10 days notice before a work-stoppage.

SEIU employees at the hospital went on strike in 2004 for five days. Issues at that time included mandatory overtime, salaries and pensions.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce