L+M health care workers decry management’s withholding of bonuses
New London ― Members of Local 5123 of AFT Connecticut, the largest of the three union locals representing Lawrence + Memorial Hospital employees, say management is withholding their year-end bonuses in a bid to force a contract settlement.
As of Monday, the hospital and the two other locals have reached tentative agreements that address the bonus issue, according to Fiona Phelan, L+M’s media relations manager.
“We continue to bargain in good faith with the service workers bargaining unit and hope to reach agreement on all issues, including PIP (bonuses), before the end of the year,” Phelan wrote in an email Monday evening.
Local 5123 members have been sharply critical of management for, in their view, using the bonuses as a bargaining chip in contract negotiations.
“I would have to agree with that,” Connie Fields, president of the 907-member local, said Monday.
Fields said the local’s last negotiating session with management took place Nov. 9.
Categorized as health care workers, Local 5123 members clean and sanitize patients’ rooms, transport patients, prepare and serve patients’ meals and provide secretarial and maintenance services.
The other locals ― 5049, which represents about 640 nurses, and Local 5051, which represents some 250 medical technologists ― tentatively agreed last week to new contracts that will provide their members with the same bonuses awarded to L+M’s non-union employees, Matt O’Connor, an AFT Connecticut spokesman, said.
Locals 5051 and 5049 have scheduled ratification votes Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, O’Connor said. The locals’ leaders would not discuss the terms of the contracts or their duration until after the votes.
Patrick Green, L+M’s president and chief executive officer, informed employees in a Nov. 29 letter that they would receive Performance Incentive Program, or PIP, awards of 2.13% of their eligible earnings for the year “above and beyond” their annual pay increase. The bonuses recognize “our collective efforts to ensure a consistent care signature, inspire a culture of excellence and sustain financial strength,” Green wrote.
The bonuses were to be paid last Thursday, Green said in the letter.
Members of the three AFT Connecticut locals were not eligible for the bonuses, Green wrote, “as the applicability of the PIP is currently the subject of contract negotiations.”
L+M’s contracts with all three of the locals expired June 30. Negotiations of new contracts began before then.
In response to Green’s letter, Emily Mitchell, a Local 5123 member, emailed Green that it was “disheartening” to learn that L+M’s front-line workers “who are the face of the hospital and deal with the general public day in and day out” were being denied bonuses.
“I am requesting the sham of a ‘Heroes Work Here’ sign be removed from the parking garage, because at this point it really feels like you and this hospital’s leadership are putting on a show for the community ...,” Mitchell wrote, referring to a banner that hangs outside the hospital. “Seeing that sign everyday on my walk into the hospital is like rubbing salt in the wound.”
Mitchell said that in its negotiations with Local 5123, management has sought to limit the number of union members eligible for health benefits and has balked at the union’s demand the hospital pay a minimum wage of $17 an hour.