Thursday, October 18, 2012

SEIU Eliminates Nurses’ Pensions

What’s the latest on SEIU’s concessionary caravan? 

Last week, the purple caravan surfaced in Ohio, where SEIU 1199 Ohio eliminated the defined-benefit pension plan for 590 RNs at Catholic Health Partners (CHP), a Catholic healthcare chain with 24 hospitals.

Dave Regan’s fingerprints are all over the deal, according to Tasty’s sources. Until recently, Regan was the President of SEIU 1199 Ohio and was the point-person for the union’s discussions with CHP’s top executives. And in recent months, Regan eliminated the defined-benefit pensions for 16,000 SEIU-UHW members at two Catholic hospital chains in California: Catholic Healthcare West (now called “Dignity Health”) and the Daughters of Charity Health System.

So what happened in Ohio?

Apparently, SEIU officials tried to make the cuts in their usual hide-the-truth style. Last Saturday, SEIU officials refused to reveal any details about their newly ratified, three-year contract covering Registered Nurses at Mercy Regional Medical Center. Here’s how one newspaper described it:

The details of the three-year collective bargaining agreement are confidential.

Then, several days later, a newspaper obtained the “details” of the contract. The newspaper article -- “Mercy Nurses’ Contract Hits Pensions” -- begins this way:

The new contract between Mercy Regional Medical Center and its nurses eliminates defined benefit pensions and seniority for many nurses, according to a contract outline obtained Sunday by The Chronicle-Telegram.

According to the article, SEIU gave up the nurses’ defined-benefit pension plan and replaced it with a cheap 401(k) plan. In addition, SEIU negotiated annual 1% annual pay increases for its members, who’re required to pay 17 percent of their monthly health insurance premiums.

So… is CHP losing money? Nope. In fact, last year the company made $120 million in profits from its day-to-day operations, according to an audited financial statement available on CHP’s website.

Hmm… so how much money will CHP save as a result of SEIU’s massive concessions? Here’s what a hospital spokesperson told the newspaper:

Mercy spokeswoman Janis Yergan wouldn’t say how much Mercy will save under the pension changes or comment on contract specifics. “The bottom line is we reached an agreement and it’s favorable to all concerned,” Yergan said.

Gimme a break! “Favorable to all concerned?” Not if you happen to ask rank-and-file SEIU members. Here’s how one nurse described the impact of SEIU’s new 401(k) plan on her co-workers, as reported in the Chronicle-Telegram:

“Their [401(k)] will become subject to the whims of the stock market,” she said. “So when it comes time for some of these people to retire, it’s a possibility that they could have zero dollars in there if things go to hell in a handbag.”