Group Health workers accept contract

The Mirror

Group Health workers voted in favor of new contracts this week, ending more than six months of negotiations marked by a strike last August.

According to the Service Employees International Union District (SEIU) 1199 NW –– which represents the registered nurses, medical assistants, licensed practical nurses (LPNs), social workers, therapists, clinic team assistants, custodians and others affected by the Group Health contract –– the new deal will:

• Roll back proposed healthcare cost increases for LPNs, medical assistants and others in service job classifications.

• Contain costs for frontline staff to an annual premium of $480 this year. The annual premium will rise to $720 in 2006, stay at that level in 2007 and rise again to $840 in 2008. SEIU members also won’t have to pay a surcharge to enroll a spouse who could have signed up for health coverage through another employer.

• Expand coverage to include $150 a year for vision.

• Improve pay to attract and retain staff, like nurses, medical assistants and service staff. Workers in western Washington, including Federal Way, will receive 15 percent pay increases between now and 2007, according to the SEIU, and eastern Washington staff will receive between 12 and 13 percent pay raises. Hourly service workers received a $1 an hour pay raise for working on weekends.

In addition, affected workersreceived improved annual wage steps that “reward longevity and encourage staff retention,” SEIU said.

The contracts are scheduled to expire June 30, 2008.

SEUI District 1199 members at Group Health include 1,060 LPNs, medical assistants and service workers, about 1,000 registered nurses and about 115 social workers and behavioral therapists. Group Health’s Federal Way Medical Center employs approximately 120 people, about half of whom are SEIU members. The center serves about 17,000 patients a year.

Staff writer Erica Hall contributed to this report.

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