After months of silence, a Dubuque hospital’s administrators spoke out this week about negotiations over a new contract with nurses. John Knox is C-E-O of Finley hospital in Dubuque. “We would rather have the negotiations go on in a quiet manner, and not have it played out in the media,” Knox said.
Knox says the hospital administration didn’t want to make public reactions to the union’s statements but decided with “a lot of untrue things out there” felt it was important to address those.
Kathy Ripple, the hospital’s Vice-President of Nursing Services, has represented FInley in negotiations with the nurses’ union for the last year and says they’ve been negotiating in good faith. She says the hospital negotiating team was “disappointed” this week to hear the Service Employees International Union had voted to approve a strike. This is the second year in a row the SEIU has issued a strike notice to Finley.
Ripple says she’d heard some rumors and wanted to put them to rest. She says they were getting questions about the nurses losing benefits like parking and cafeteria discounts, “and Finley has no intention of taking those benefits away from the nurses.” While the hospital heads were talking to reporters, outside union members were staging an informational picket.
Linda Merfield, head of Union Local 199, was not optimistic the contract dispute could be settled without a walkout. Merfield says she doesn’t think the hospital will “bring anything to the table.” She says they’ll do all they can but “need to be realistic at this point.” The hospital’s latest contract offer includes some life-insurance and healthplan benefits as well as a three-percent pay increase to the top wage earners, and a guaranteed three-percent annual raise.
The Service Employees International Union Local 199 is asking for a five and three-quarters percent pay increase over the next two years. On Wednesday S-E-I-U sent the hospital a strike notice. If the union and hospital don’t reach agreement on a new contract by July 6, the nurses will stage a three-day strike.