Bargaining Update - CHEU Negotiations


Palomar Health met with the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union (CHEU) on July 28 for further contract negotiations.  The parties continued to discuss the following topics:
  • Article 15 – Hours of Work
  • Article 16 – Compensation
  • Article 25 – Pension  
  • Article 32 – Health and Safety
  • Article 35 – Medical Interpretation
Palomar Health has been increasing its salary proposals over the past several meetings.  On June 23, we proposed a first year Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase of .75%.  On July 10, we increased that to 1.25%.  On July 14, we increased that again to 1.50%. 

            Based on feedback from CHEU’s bargaining team, we concluded that the Union wanted to see higher salary increases.  In response, we presented the following counterproposal:
  • On the first day of the pay period after the contract is ratified, all Caregivers would receive a 3.6% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase.
  • On the first day of the pay period beginning after June 1 of any subsequent years the contract is in effect, all Caregivers would receive a 3.0% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase. 
  • After the first 3.6% pay increase, any Caregiver who is already at the top of the pay scale would receive a lump sum payment of 1.5% of his/her base salary on the first day of the pay period beginning each June 1.
Under Palomar Health’s proposal, Caregivers would continue to be placed on the salary grid in accordance with current practice. However, these higher Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increases would be instead of the percent increases between steps.  We believe it is simpler and more transparent to provide these significantly higher salary increases, which are clearly visible in the contract.    

As stated above, the 3.0% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increases would be paid in June. This is a full six (6) months earlier, compared to increases historically made in January.  In order to help fund the substantial salary increases that CHEU identified as a priority, we proposed a modest 0.5% reduction in pension contributions. Our proposed 5.5% contribution to the Fidelity §401(a) plan still represents a significant, financially generous, and competitive pension contribution. Employees with 15 or more years of service would still receive an additional contribution of 0.5%.  Further, we would continue our generous contributions to the §457 deferred compensation plan.  As part of Palomar Health’s comprehensive compensation package, we contribute the following amounts to that additional plan:
  • 1-9 years of service: $.50 for $1.00 match of employee contribution up to 2% of base salary
  • 10-15 years of service: $1.00 per $1.00 match of employee contribution up to 2% of base salary
  • 16+ years of service: $1.50 for each $1.00 of employee contribution up to 2% of base salary.
Today, we also offered to increase mandatory and voluntary call back pay from $7 to $8 an hour
In addition, we offered to increase the hourly lead differential to the greater of seven percent (7%) of your base rate or one dollar and ninety cents ($1.90) more than you would have been paid to work in a non-lead capacity.  The hourly lead differential in the contract that recently expired was $1.65.

Of course, we have offered many other economic and non-economic improvements as well.  These include, but are not limited to:
  • Offering a Weekend Shift differential for the first time (an additional $1.00 per hour); 
  • Increasing tuition reimbursement amounts by 25%; and
  • Tentative agreements on many topics throughout the contract, including a new article devoted entirely to “Resources, Tools, & Equipment.”
Despite all these increases, the Union refused to lower its salary demands at all.  CHEU repeated all of its prior economic proposals, making only one small change. The Union stated that it would be willing to give up Columbus Day as a holiday.  This is not really a concession, since Columbus Day is not currently considered a holiday in the contract.  In fact, the Union is still demanding to add three more minor holidays that have never been in the contract. 

The parties remain far apart in their positions.  The Union’s proposals continue to exceed what is financially supportable by several multiples. 

Palomar Health is dedicated to reaching a fair and equitable contract that protects the interests of the health system and our patients while rewarding our hard-working employees. We remain committed to bargaining in good faith throughout the negotiation process. Unfortunately, CHEU would not agree to return to the bargaining table until August 11.  We look forward to our next meeting, and will continue to work toward a new agreement. 

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