With the implementation of collective bargaining law and expiration of negotiating agreements, University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics employees walked into a board meeting to address concerns about the loss of representation and what it will mean for them.
Thousands of medical employees of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics will face the expiration of collective bargaining agreements at the end of the year, Christine Lamitina, from Service Employees International Union, said.
Unlike most other public employees, medical staff in Wisconsin have the right to negotiate agreements with the hospital on work conditions, according to reporting from the Wisconsin State Journal.
Currently, there are no negotiations between the unions and UWHC, Lamitina said. The coalition of community supporters and UWHC employees walked into a meeting of the UWHC Board of Directors Thursday and delivered 1,198 petitions signed by UWHC employees, she said.
“Donna, [CEO of the UW Hospital], and the board were polite but noncommittal,” Lamitina said.
As the agreements expire at the end of the year, the collective bargaining rights will be stripped away by the provisions of Act 10, Lisa Brunette, UW Health Marketing and Public Affairs spokesperson, said.
Under Act 10, all represented employees at UWHC will transition to non-represented status, Lamitina said. Around 5,000 members of the UWHC community will become “at will” employees who are subject to dismissal without cause at any time, Lamitina said.
Lamitina said after their current contract expires, UWHC employees will not have union recognition by the hospital.
David Walsh, the UW System Board of Regents chair and board member of UWHC Authority Board said the main concern of employees is they will be treated unfairly without representation.
Lamitina said she thinks the lack of bargaining rights will put patient safety at risk.
“For more than three decades, we have had the right to collectively bargain for safe work conditions that improve the quality of care we offer at UWHC,” Lamitina said. “Our efforts have helped ensure the best healthcare outcomes for UWHC patients. Those rights continue for most employees under current contract, but once the contracts end, UWHC could become a very different place.”
Service Employees International Union along with labor unions American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has organized a rally “5,000 strong,” Lamitina said. She said the unions want UWHC to continue to recognize them as the voice of the employees and commit to embodying policies in renewed agreements.
Brunette said the hospital always acknowledges its achievement based on the contributions by its staff.
“Our success is built on teamwork,” Brunette said. “We have always and will continue to listen to all employee voices as they help us shape a work environment.”
Walsh said the hospital is now in the process of communicating the transition plan to its employees and looking for feedback. He said he is not sure about what agreements the unions and hospital will reach.
Walsh expressed concerns about keeping market dynamics in the field of medical service.
“We have to be concern[ed] about the marketplace,” Walsh said, adding that he thinks an engaging and competitive environment for the employees is a key factor for building UWHC’s national reputation.