Service Workers Land Contract

Union leaders announced yesterday that they had struck a contract for 200 service workers at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital and the Windemere Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center.

The two-year contract is effective Oct. 1 and includes a three per cent cost of living increase for workers over the next two years. When step increases are added, workers at the hospital and Windemere can expect to see a total salary increase between six and eight per cent.

"Negotiations went well; they were cordial and I think everyone was feeling pretty good about it," hospital chief executive officer Tim Walsh said yesterday.

Contract negotiations for Windemere workers have been tense in recent years as the financially troubled nursing home has been plagued by staff shortages and also high turnover in administrators.

"Windemere is doing all right, knock on wood, so we can hold on for now," Mr. Walsh said.

Windemere and the hospital share the same campus.

The contract for nonprofessional employees at both institutions expired Sept. 30. Negotiations have been under way for about two months.

"This was really smooth and I don't think these are outrageous contracts, they are good contracts," Mr. Walsh said.

Mr. Walsh did not participate in the negotiations; he said the chief negotiator for management was Ken Chisolm, who is the human resources director for the hospital and Windemere. Mr. Chisolm is also the administrator in training for Windemere.

"It was pretty uneventful, which is the way you like it to be," Mr. Walsh said of the contract talks.

The union that represents the workers is SEIU Local 2020.

"These contracts reflect not just the reality of what it costs to live on the Island," said union representative Patrick Crowley in a prepared statement released yesterday, "they also take into account the extremely hard work these members do every day in very difficult circumstances."

Mr. Crowley said the contracts also addressed the ongoing need to develop more adequate staffing. Under the new contracts, new per diem programs with cash incentives will be introduced along with the improved wages. Parties on both sides agreed to meet every spring to discuss alternative health insurance options as a way to keep costs in line.

The contracts cover office workers, nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, technical, professional and maintenance workers.