Oak Ridge, TN – Members of SEIU Local 205 have overwhelmingly approved new three-year contracts with Methodist Medical Center of Oak. The agreements cover almost 800 workers at the hospital. Employees will receive an immediate 2.5% wage increase and a signing bonus as well as the same increases in the second and third year. “It was tough negotiating back and forth, but in the end we have something we all can be happy about,” said Josh Helton, a Respiratory Therapist who was on the Union’s Bargaining Team.
Under the terms, hammered out over the past month, employee will see only modest increases in medical insurance premiums. “Good affordable health care is important for my family and me,” said Emergency Room RN Bryan Helton, another member of SEIU’s Bargaining Team. “I’m pleased our new contract guarantees that for us,” he said.
Employees will also have expanded paid leave if they are exposed to COVID-19 on the job and have to be quarantined or become infected. “Having this paid leave is important to me,” said Tracy Fair, Bargaining Team Member, who is also Service and Technical Chief Steward. “Working in a hospital means we are potentially exposed every day we work,” she added. “I hope I never have to use this benefit, but it gives me peace of mind,” she noted. Other improvements include, a new student loan debt forgiveness program that will help eligible employees pay off their student debt and a joint commitment to collaboratively address staffing and workload issues.
The agreement was reached despite the unprecedented challenges the country and especially health care workers and institutions have faced during the pandemic. “We appreciate the Hospital leadership’s efforts to work together with us to reach this agreement, well before our current contract expired” said Union Bargaining Team and RN Chief Steward Sarah Englehardt.
“We are pleased with being able to ratify this contract early. During such a trying time in healthcare, we now can go back and focus 100% on patient care,” said Registered Nurse, Shanella Hawkins, a member of the Union’s Bargaining Team. By finishing the contract early, workers will receive pay increases three months ahead of schedule.
Local 205 of the Service Employees International (SEIU) is a statewide Union of healthcare, private sector and public service workers. SEIU is North America’s largest labor union with over 1.8 million members including 1 million health care workers across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Methodist Medical Center is part of Covenant Health.