NIHD and Union Workers Reach Bargaining Agreement

Source: Northern Inyo Hospital

After three months of bargaining, Northern Inyo Healthcare District and its union workers reached agreements increasing wages and adding benefits for those asked to fill COVID-19-related staffing shortages.

NIHD Chief Executive Officer Kelli Davis said NIHD remains committed to its most valuable resources, its providers and employees. In a statement, Davis said, “Our Board, our Executive Team, and I sincerely hope these agreements demonstrate our commitment to those who share their knowledge and talents for the health and wellness of our community. They have shown compassion, grace, and dedication to our neighbors in a uniquely challenging time, and for that, we are grateful to each employee.”

During the last three months, NIHD engaged in good faith bargaining for the Registered Nurse and Technical units, represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Davis said much appreciation goes out to all team members involved in the negotiations and those throughout the District who supported these negotiation efforts at every level.

During this round of bargaining, only the subject of wages was open for renegotiation. Both unit contracts had wage re-openers scheduled for August 2021. This schedule required the District to reconsider current wages for represented employees during the life of the existing agreements, set to expire on Oct. 31, 2022.

NIHD and AFSCME reached tentative agreements for the units on Nov. 3. Union members voted to accept the contracts as presented on Nov. 8. The agreements then went before NIHD’s Board of Directors Monday night for approval. The Board unanimously approved both.

Under the agreements, members of the RN Unit will receive a 12 percent wage increase. Technical Unit members will receive between 6.9 percent and 10 percent wage increase based on their position in the District’s bi-annual wage analysis. Unrepresented District employees, including department leaders, will see similar adjustments.

The changes are retroactive to Oct. 10, and employees will begin to see these adjustments with the Nov. 21 pay period and the Dec. 10 paycheck. The approved agreements cover Nov. 3 through Oct. 31, 2022.

As the District continues to balance fiscal sustainability and its full commitment to the wellness of the workforce through compensation and benefits that are competitive and responsible, decision-making around the core of our revenue cycle process, amongst other District operational processes, has received continuous review and analysis by the NIHD Executive Team during the past several months.

The NIHD Executive Team has decided to outsource billing and coding. This decision has affected, in total, 13 members of the billing and coding teams. Davis said this decision was very difficult and weighed heavily on the administration. Ensuring every effort to support these team members through this transition is a priority. Each member has the option to choose a reassignment to a new role (with which they are qualified) within the District or a severance package to support their wages and health plan coverage needs.

“We found out what could be done, how it could be done, and how we could make this a win for everybody, especially the community,” Sharp said. “This is also about sustainability, at the end of the day it is our duty to make sure that we are here every day providing the health care necessary for our local community. Thank you, everybody, from every corner and every region of the District. We appreciate all you do for us each day and rest assured; your efforts do not go unnoticed.”

Separate from the negotiation finalization approval, but of significant importance, during the Special Board Meeting, NIHD and AFSCME agreed in a side letter that under the new COVID Crisis Staffing Shift Bonus, those Technical Unit employees picking extra shifts on top of regular schedules would earn $400 per eight-hour shift or $250 for shorter periods. NIHD’s Board unanimously approved the bonus. Unrepresented District employees will see the same shift bonus options. The incentive is a temporary measure, and funding will come directly from COVID relief funds.

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