RELEASE: Univ. of Iowa Hospital Talks Intensify as Caregivers Call on Regents to Embrace Partnership Proposal

– After two bargaining sessions, Univ. of Iowa Health Care (UIHC) management has yet to engage with caregivers’ proposal to work together on solutions

– Problems that need solving: Turnover of experienced staff almost doubled in 2020; UIHC CEO has admitted caregiver pay is “not market competitive”

– UIHC adopted the slogan “We Stand Together” during the pandemic; the 4,000 union caregivers want to put those words into action

WHAT: UIHC caregivers and Iowa Regents hold first closed-door bargaining session

WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 10, 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. ETA for post-bargaining interviews

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Caregivers on the union bargaining team will be available for Zoom interviews immediately after Wednesday’s bargaining ends.

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IOWA CITY — Caregivers at University of Iowa Health Care (UIHC) are intensifying their call for an innovative Partnership Proposal as contract talks resume today.

This is arguably the most important bargaining session yet in the talks between UIHC’s 4,000 RNs and professional staff and the Iowa Board of Regents, who oversee the hospital system. In the two previous sessions, the caregivers and Regents presented their initial offers. Now the real bargaining begins.

“Iowans are counting on us to meet the challenge of the pandemic,” said Cathy Glasson, RN, president of SEIU Local 199, which unites UIHC’s nurses and professional staff. “By working together in partnership, we can ensure we have the staff and the resources necessary to care for Iowa now and in the future.”

The caregivers’ Partnership Proposal would enable frontline employees and managers to work jointly on solutions across UIHC. Hospital management has expressed interest in the proposal, but their initial contract offer included no language on the union’s partnership plan.

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 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.

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

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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