Members of a workers’ union at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center voted Wednesday to ratify a five-year contract with the company that is expected to buy the 230-bed facility, pending state approval.
According to a spokeswoman for the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) union, 99 percent of the members who participated in the vote favored ratification. The exact numbers of members who voted for and against ratification were not available Wednesday night.
But spokeswoman Jean Pierce said voting, which began at 6 a.m. and continued into the evening, was “heavy throughout the day. We had a really good turnout.”
HPAE represents more than 400 Meadowlands employees, about half of whom are Secaucus residents.
HPAE President Ann Twomey announced on Sept. 15 that the union had reached a tentative agreement with MHA, LLC, a group of private investors expected to purchase Meadowlands Hospital from its current owner, LibertyHealth System.
The union withheld details of the agreement until after Wednesday’s ratification.
According to Pierce, the agreement is a five year deal that guarantees the jobs of all current employees and recognizes seniority. Current wages will be maintained, she said, and the contract guarantees annual salary increases of two percent for each of the next five years. Current annual leave accrual rates are also maintained.
It appears the only area where employees lost some ground was in sick leave accrual. At present, employees accrue 12 days of sick leave annually. Under the new contract they will accrue 10 days each year.
Quality of care is maintained
Although MHA is expected to switch health care providers from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to United Health Care, employees will, Pierce said, maintain the same level of coverage they currently have.
“Our members voted overwhelmingly in favor of this agreement with MHA,” Registered Nurse JoAnne Dudsak, a Secaucus resident and president of HPAE Local 5147 at Meadowlands Hospital, said in a release Wednesday night. “We have always been proud of the health care we provide at Meadowlands Hospital and wanted to make sure that when ownership changes, the same dedicated and experienced staff would be there to ensure continuity of quality care for our patients. This contract does that.”
The employees’ current labor contract is set to expire next year. The agreement between HPAE and LibertyHealth remains intact until the sale of the hospital is complete. Once the sale between LibertyHealth and MHA is completed, the agreement ratified Wednesday goes into effect.
“MHA is delighted by the unanimous union ratification of our agreement,” said MHA spokesman William Maer Thursday morning. “We look forward to working with all the employees of the hospital once this transaction is successfully completed. This contract is fair and will help enable Meadowlands Hospital to function as a full service acute care hospital serving the residents of Hudson County and the surrounding area for many years into the future.”
The sale of Meadowlands Hospital is under review by the state Attorney General and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.
The hospital sale – reported to be a $16 million deal – requires the approval of both agencies. The deal has been somewhat controversial, and has received additional scrutiny from state agencies because, if approved, the hospital would shift from the nonprofit LibertyHealth to the for-profit MHA.
Prior to reaching its labor agreement with two weeks ago, HPAE had been advocating for the contract as part of the conditions of the sale.