After three days of negotiations and amid a strike that started May 6, there is still no deal between the UAW's St. Vincent Mercy workers and Mercy Health.
Mercy Health officials released a statement Thursday afternoon explaining their end of the deal. They claim they tried to work out a deal with UAW leaders by offering more specific solutions to the areas these striking workers are concerned with. A few of those solutions included reducing on-call hours by 10% over an 18-month period and limiting health plan out-of-pocket maximums and deductibles to remain the same for the next two years.
The UAW asked Mercy to increase the hourly rate for those on-call hours if that 10% benchmark was not achieved in 18 months as promised in the contract. Union leaders say this was a way for them to ensure Mercy kept its promise.
The hospital says they presented fair proposals and solutions to the issues identified by the UAW and if the union could not recommend that offer to striking workers, that offer would no longer stand.
So there was no vote Thursday and right now the negotiation process is at an impasse. The St. Vincent workers and nurses here on the picket line are frustrated and upset.
“We all have licenses we need to protect, Mercy's not going to be willing to protect it so we need to and we're going to stand on the line until we get some resolution from them” said Peggy Kole, St. Vincent nurse. “They don't care about us, they don't care! I believe in the Mercy mission, I believe in that and that's why I've worked there and I've not had any other job I've worked at St. V's for 20 years and I've been a nurse. And for them to just tell use "sorry! We're not giving you anything! Do they really believe in their mission?”
“We could work anywhere, there are lots of places where we could work for more money. I could go up to U of M, I could take care of kids there all the time. We're here because we want to work for the hometown and take care of kids in our own communities” said Tammy Wilhelm, St. Vincent nurse.
Mercy Health released a statement Thursday afternoon.
"Despite Mercy Health's Health’s efforts to address all the issues publicly identified by union members, UAW leadership at St. Vincent once again refused to recommend the hospital’s proposal to membership for a vote," a statement from Mercy read Thursday.
A statement from the UAW followed shortly after Mercy's statement.
"After three long negotiating sessions and meaningful progress, Mercy Health’s final proposal to the UAW included a promise to reduce mandatory on-call hours by 10% over 18 months. The UAW was willing to accept this IF Mercy agreed to increase the hourly rate for on-call if the 10% benchmark was not achieved ... Mercy refused to accept this modest counterproposal."
Negotiations between the UAW and Mercy reached the third and final scheduled day on Wednesday.
Ultimately, the sides were trying to work out some sort of agreement to end this strike, which centers around the workers' demands for better health care and on-call hours.
Mercy's statement Thursday also read:
"As a result of the past three days of negotiations between the parties, the Hospital made proposals that addressed the UAW’s articulated issues of on call requirements and health care. In addition, the Hospital entertained and incorporated several other issues identified by the units.
"The Hospital has presented a fair proposal and solutions to the issues identified by the UAW. UAW leadership has declined to recommend that the members ratify the proposals.
"To end this prolonged stalemate, the proposals presented by the Hospital were expressly conditioned upon the recommendation. Without recommendation of each bargaining committee. Without this recommendation, the Hospital’s offer reverts to its prior position.
"It is unfortunate that the UAW does not appear willing to recommend the Hospital’s offer. The Hospital’s last, best, and final offer from April was not recommended by the UAW and was therefore rejected by the members. Indeed, although the UAW represented that it would be neutral in its presentation of the last, best, and final offer, the we received reports that the UAW presentation in the ratification meetings was negative. Accordingly, require that the UAW leaders recommend ratification prior to vote.
"The Hospital’s proposal is subject to recommendation by each units’ bargaining team. In the absence of recommendation, the proposal is withdrawn and the Hospital’s previous position remains."
The UAW's statement on the negotiations said union leadership believes more progress can be made and wants members to decide for themselves.
"Despite growing concerns from nurses about the negative consequences of required overtime, the UAW told Mercy that it is willing to take the complete proposal to its membership for a vote. Mercy, however, insisted that unless UAW leadership recommend this proposal to its members, the proposal would be withdrawn.
Earlier today, the UAW informed the hospital that it remains ready to continue negotiations and believes more progress can, and should, be made. For that reason, UAW could not recommend passage but wanted the members to decide for themselves. Mercy refused to allow the vote."
The negotiation meetings happened on neutral territory and involved a federal mediator. Both sides have agreed not to discuss what happens during the negotiation sessions until they are complete.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur also spoke about the strike on the House floor Wednesday.
"The nurses of St. Vincent are striking on quality-of-life issues: overtime, mandatory on call and, ironically, health care for them and their families," Kaptur said. "The struggle these workers and their patients are facing is on my mind every minute and I continue to urge a real dialog from the company..."
The contract negotiating issues have been ongoing since late July. Over the course of the following nine months, the two sides met 56 times to try and work out a deal. Mid-April of this year is when things got tough.