Thursday, January 19, 2012

SEIU-UHW's Stealth Cuts at Sutter Health

While most people celebrated the New Year with champagne and fireworks, the 1st of January brought a very different mood to SEIU-UHW members at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Northern California.  On January 1st, the hospital implemented a “stealth” takeaway of workers’ health benefits that was negotiated by SEIU’s trustees back in 2009. Here’s what happened:

For decades, Sutter Delta Medical Center has paid all­ of the monthly premiums for its employees’ PPO health insurance plan. On January 1st, the hospital suddenly began deducting about $80 a month from workers’ paychecks for family health coverage, and less for individual coverage. To put it in perspective, $80 a month is equivalent to a wage cut of 50 cents an hour for a full-time worker.

So where did the health cuts come from? Well, back in 2009, Dave Regan and Co negotiated a provision in the union contract that requires workers to pay 5% of the health insurance premiums beginning on January 1, 2012 -- similar to the recent cuts at this Northern California hospital that are making waves.

And that’s not all. Regan’s deal at Sutter Delta Medical Center also established two-tiered benefits for employees. New employees must pay even more for their health coverage: 15% of their premiums -- or about $240 per month for family coverage. For full-time workers, that translates into a wage cut of $1.50 per hour. 

Here's the language that Regan and Co negotiated:

Why did Regan sign off on the cuts? Is the hospital struggling to make ends meet? Hardly. Last year, the 140-bed hospital pulled down $8 million in profits, according to state records. And the hospital’s parent company, Sutter Health, made nearly a billion dollars in profit. In fact, Sutter Health -- like Kaiser Permanente -- is one of the most profitable hospital chains in the nation.