Unionized workers at Red Cross unit OK pay freeze

November 02, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

The Red Cross Blood Services region serving Maryland reached a three-year contract agreement yesterday with 45 union employees that imposes a one-year pay freeze that officials say was needed to offset a $1.2 million shortfall.

Members of Teamsters Local 311 voted 37 to 4 to ratify the pact for workers who drive and assist on mobile units and work as supply clerks in storage facilities. The agreement allows talks to reopen on wages in the second and third years of the pact.

"No one will get a pay increase, and that includes management," said David L. Simms, executive director of the agency's Chesapeake and Potomac Region, which covers Maryland, Washington, northern Virginia and south-central Pennsylvania. He said his $156,000 annual salary also has been frozen.

Mr. Simms said wages have been frozen for all 800 employees, including nurses and phlebotomists, to help the agency deal with losses of $832,000 in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, which began July 1. The agency ended the last fiscal year with a $379,000 deficit.

Red Cross Blood Services also has eliminated leased autos, car phones and catered staff functions for employees and has laid off five workers.

An official at Red Cross Blood Services headquarters in Washington says a recent nationwide reduction in demand for blood products from hospitals has hurt many of its regions.

The region covering Maryland faced especially severe financial problems, though there was a persistent and critical need for blood donors, officials said.

Mr. Simms said yesterday's agreement combined with other cost-cutting measures will help the agency's fiscal outlook.

"We can at least see light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "However, we still have serious cost challenges ahead of us. We're not close to a break-even situation."

He said Red Cross Blood Services also has obtained a line of credit from American Red Cross' Central Maryland Chapter, which operates under a separate board of directors. The credit was used to meet payroll expenses.

Local 311 was the last group of employees to agree to a pay freeze. Their contract was set to expire on Monday, but union members agreed to continue working until a new settlement was reached. They had rejected an offer from the agency on Sunday. Yesterday's pact covers employees who average about $11 an hour.

Bryan Griffin, the union's negotiator, said one of his main concerns was keeping the collective bargaining unit together at a time when the agency was looking to subcontract much of its work.

Mr. Griffin said members had to accept the wage freeze after other employees agreed to that concession.

"We were forced into this position," he said, adding that the union would seek raises next year if the agency's financial situation improves.

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