Ending a three-year standoff, Nassau University Medical Center and the Civil Service Employees Association reached agreement on a six-year contract that promises no more layoffs and gives the hospital the ability to control health insurance costs.
"It's a fair contract, reflecting the times we live in and the challenges confronting public hospitals," said Arthur Gianelli, chief executive of NuHealth, a public benefit corporation that includes NUMC in East Meadow, A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale and five community health care centers.
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of CSEA Local 830, which represents 3,500 full- and part-time workers at NuHealth, called the contract "a good deal for our membership because the most important thing is to have a job tomorrow. And to maintain the hard-earned benefits they fought over the years for."
Last night the contract was approved by 94.4 percent of members who cast ballots, with 1,544 yes votes and 91 opposed.
The previous contract expired in 2009. Laricchiuta said talks took so long because the union and management started "universes" apart. But after hundreds of hours of negotiations, both made concessions, he said.
"I would have liked to have seen more money," Laricchiuta said. "But for the union, the most important thing is that five years from now the hospital is still open and flourishing."
Under the terms, employees receive no retroactive pay increase for 2010 through 2012. This year and next year, full-time employees will get a $750 cash payment; part-time workers will receive $325. In 2015, the contract's final year, employees will get a 4 percent increase.
Management also promised no more layoffs unless the state eliminates beds or programs. Between the end of 2011 and spring of 2012, 350 employees were laid off or offered early retirement.
NuHealth received concessions on health insurance it deemed important for future financial stability: New employees must be vested for 20 years, not five years as they are now, before receiving free health care upon retiring. And new employees must pay a larger percentage toward their health care if they decide not to opt for NuHealth's own health insurance plan.
Current employees would not see a change to their health insurance. The existing plan requires employees to contribute 15 percent to their health insurance for the first five years and nothing afterward.
The contract also allows NuHealth to self-insure. The corporation will offer its own health plan, using its doctors, alongside its current standard health plan, Gianelli said. For those who participate in the NuHealth plan, the care is free.
Self-insuring could save the corporation between 1 percent and 2 percent each year from the growth in costs, yield new patients and cut the amount of money spent at other facilities, Gianelli said.
"This is a win-win for everyone," he said. "Employees can mitigate their insurance contributions; we get patients."
For the first time, employees will be offered profit sharing if there is a surplus. And management may create a $200,000 performance bonus pool, with distribution decided by management and the union.
Residents will be paid higher salaries, pegged to other Long Island teaching hospitals, and physicians will get certain holidays off. Under the previous contract, doctors had to use vacation days for holidays.