No progress in Hastings labor dispute

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Since a two-day strike last month, there has been no progress in the contract dispute between Regina Medical Center and 230 workers represented by Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota. No talks have been held since the works stoppage and none are scheduled.

“They continue to tell members of the media they’re willing to meet, and yet they have not called us,” says Ryan Nagle, communications director for the labor union. “We’d be happy to meet anytime, anyplace.”

Next Wednesday union members will hold a vote on the current contract proposal from Regina Medical Center, which the Hastings facility has characterized as its final offer. If the proposal is voted down, the union will then vote on whether to authorize a five-day strike over unfair labor practices.

SEIU currently has a half-dozen grievances pending before the National Labor Relations Board for what Nagle characterizes as “run of the mill intimidation and threats leading up to the strike.” Among the allegations: employees were warned that they’d be permanently replaced if they walked off the job.

The chief issue in the contract dispute is over employee pensions. Currently Regina Medical Center pays the equivalent of 8 percent of an employee’s salary into a pension plan if the worker has at least five years of experience and 4 percent for more recent hires. The facility wants to change to a less-generous plan that would require employees to match the company’s contributions if they wish to have more than 2 percent of their salary put into a retirement account.