by Barry Drue
Negotiations between Baraga County Memorial Hospital administration and BCMH’s approximately 50 AFSCME employees continue after stretching for seven months. A three-year contract for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union Local 2088 expired on Sept. 22, 2017. Negotiations began in August, 2017. AFSCME employees work in departments such as dietary, billing, housekeeping, admitting, and serve as ward clerks, lab staff and radiology technologists. BCMH CEO Margie Hale said administration and its attorney, Grant Pecor of Grand Rapids, MI, “met several times before being joined by a State Mediator. Following the parties’ November mediation session the union indicated it was going to take the employer’s proposal back for a vote.” AFSCME Staff Representative Bob Murphy of Ironwood has led the bargaining process for the union. He said it was never the intent of the union to go back to membership for a vote, but rather to obtain feedback. He said administration left the a Jan. 5 meeting with the mediator and would not return. “They left the room. We had the mediator there and they never came back. One of the things we were prepared to address was the Health Savings Account. We could have had that done,” Murphy said.Hale said, “Instead of resuming our efforts to use a mediator to resolve the parties’ differences the union presented a petition for fact finding at the start of the parties’ January meeting and refused to engage in further mediation efforts. As a result the parties broke after only a few hours.” Hale and Murphy agree that a neutral fact-finding specialist from the Michigan Employment Relations Commission will be brought in to comb through the proposals. Fact finding is nonbinding, meaning neither party is forced to accept the results. Fact finding will likely take place sometime this spring. To read more, subscribe to the L’Anse Sentinel online, or buy a print copy at our local retailers.