Union slates 3-day strike at GBMC

May 4-May 6 walkout is called after talks break off

April 24, 2001|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

Talks broke off last night between hospital service workers and Greater Baltimore Medical Center, with the union saying it would give notice today of a three-day strike to occur at the end of next week.

District 1199E-DC of the Service Employees International Union reached contract agreements late last week with Johns Hopkins and Sinai hospitals, but GMBC "proved unwilling to agree to the same high standards as Hopkins and Sinai," said Jim McNeill, an SEIU spokesman.

Kay Taylor, vice president for marketing at GBMC, said the union walked out of the negotiations last evening before the hospital had a chance to present its full offer. "We didn't even get to the wages," she said. "We don't know what their reaction would have been."

McNeill said the hospital's bargaining team had made a presentation, then left the room, and "we assumed they had left for the evening."

Taylor said the management bargaining team had indicated that it was caucusing, but the union negotiators responded that they were leaving.

The strike is scheduled to begin at noon Friday, May 4, and continue through Sunday, May 6. By law, unions must give 10 days' notice of intent to strike a hospital.

Taylor said GBMC would continue to offer all regular services, with the striking service workers' jobs being done by management and by workers in nonunion departments. The union represents workers in departments such as housekeeping, food service and maintenance.

The union staged one-day strikes in January and March against all three hospitals, as it sought to win new contracts to replace agreements that expired in December.

Since last month's walkout, the SEIU concentrated its efforts - and its pressure tactics - on Hopkins. Just minutes before another three-day strike was to begin Thursday, it reached a settlement with Hopkins. That brings the lowest-paid union workers, who now receive $7.52 an hour, to $10 by the end of the three-year agreement.

The next night, the union bargained with Sinai, and quickly reached agreement on a pact raising the lowest pay scale to $9.75 an hour over the term of the three-year agreement.

Taylor said GBMC's management was willing to negotiate with the union "as often as they're willing to meet, and in hopes they will stay through the discussion."

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