RELEASE: Caregivers Call on Gov. Reynolds to Keep Her Word as Talks Near Climax at University of Iowa Hospital

– Gov. Reynolds called caregivers “heroic” for helping Iowans during the pandemic and pledged to try and “sufficiently express our gratitude”

– But as Univ. of Iowa Hospital & Clinics (UIHC) contract talks near their end, the state still hasn’t embraced the caregivers’ Partnership Proposal

– State’s latest offer wouldn’t stem turnover of experienced staff that nearly doubled in 2020, or fix pay UIHC CEO called “not market competitive”

WHAT: UIHC caregivers and Iowa Regents holding likely last bargaining session

WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 25, 3:30 p.m.

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Caregivers on the union bargaining team will be available for online interviews after bargaining on Thursday

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IOWA CITY — Caregivers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) are calling on Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to keep her word and press for a contract that rewards their “heroic” work during the pandemic. Today’s contract talks are likely to be the last between the caregivers and the Iowa Regents, who oversee UIHC and are appointed by the governor.

In her Condition of the State Address in January, Reynolds thanked Iowa’s healthcare workers for their “dedication and commitment” during the pandemic. “[Y]ou worked some of the longest hours, in the most uncertain conditions,” Reynolds said. “Your actions saved lives. Your spirit inspired us…. We cannot sufficiently express our gratitude, but we will try.”

“Gov. Reynolds has said she wants to thank Iowa’s caregivers for their dedication and commitment during the pandemic,” said Cathy Glasson, RN, president of SEIU Local 199, which unites the 4,000 RNs and professional staff of UIHC. “There is no better way to honor their service than by making sure that the Regents she appoints settle a fair contract.”

The caregivers opened negotiations last month by offering an innovative Labor Management Partnership. That Partnership Proposal would enable frontline employees and managers to work jointly on solutions across UIHC. Hospital management has expressed interest in the proposal, but so far, the Regents have included no language on it in their contract offer.

There are a whole host of challenges at UIHC that the Partnership Proposal would address, including:

  • Spiking Turnover Among Experienced Staff. In 2018, 158 caregivers with over 10 years’ experience left UIHC; in 2019, 240 experienced caregivers left; in 2020, 467 did. The Partnership Proposal includes a variety of initiatives to better retain staff.
  • Non-competitive Pay for Caregivers. UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran has said, “We absolutely are not market competitive for almost any job that we have at UIHC.” The Regents’ current offer of 1.3 percent raises in each year of the two-year agreement would make the problem worse. The union is calling for 5 percent annual raises.

UIHC, which is a state-owned facility, has the resources to invest in safeguarding care. Despite the pandemic, UIHC ended fiscal year 2020 with $14 million more in operating income than projected. The State of Iowa closed out FY 2020 with a $305 million budget surplus and $770 million in its rainy-day fund.

Thursday’s negotiations, conducted via Zoom, won’t be livestreamed to the public, but caregivers on the union bargaining team will be available for online interviews immediately after the bargaining session and on Friday.

The UIHC caregivers entered these negotiations with major momentum. In October, they voted 2,828 to 38 to keep their union in a recertification election for public employees mandated by Iowa law.

SEIU Local 199 represents 5,000 healthcare and public service workers across Iowa. It is an affiliate of the 2-million-member Service Employees International Union. SEIU’s Healthcare Division includes 1 million nurses, lab techs, environmental service workers and other vital staff who serve 60 million patients and clients.

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