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Service workers at University of Rochester Medical Center take to picket line

Posted at: 10/12/2012 4:24 AM
Updated at: 10/12/2012 5:57 PM
By: Joangel Concepcion

Hundreds of service workers at the University of Rochester Medical Center took to the picket line Friday. They’re upset over labor contract negotiations, specifically health care and benefit changes.

This particular union says this change in health care benefits fund will affect more than 1800employees at the University of Rochester Medical Center. They say they've had the same health benefits for thirty years and they don't want that to change. On Friday, those employees, ranging from patient care technicians to surgical assistants to even transportation workers all gathered together with a very clear message for officials.

It didn’t matter what they did at the hospital or what department they worked for. On Friday, hundreds of U of R Medical Center employees all stood on the same team.

Richard Perez James, U of R Medical Center employee, said, “If we are very good for them when we're trying to do our jobs, and then do something for us too.”

Service workers and officials at the medical center are at odds over employee health plans.

The two failed to reach an agreement earlier this week. The union claims the hospital is trying to eliminate its current health benefits fund and replace it with a more expensive plan.

Larry Knox, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare workers, said, “Nobody here is a millionaire, nobody here is over paid. They just want to be able to keep the healthcare that they have so they can take care of their families. It's not a lot to ask nowadays.”

It’s something the union says is unfair and unreasonable, especially since they say most of these workers have children.

Knox said, “For a family up to three thousand dollars a year which our workers can not afford.”

Judith Ann Overman, Medical Center employee, said, “We can't afford the health insurance that the nurses pay for. We can't afford it on our salaries.”

Some of these workers say changing the existing plan could be detrimental to their own health.

John Daszczyszak, Medical Center Employee, said, “I'm a cancer survivor and I need my benefits and healthcare so I can keep on taking care of myself as well as my family.”

John Daszczyszak says he's worried for this future.  He's been working at the medical center for almost eight years. He says it is ironic that those who provide healthcare are now fighting for it themselves.

Daszczyszak said, “We want to get what we deserve. We take care of a lot of things around here. We want our healthcare, we want our training funds, and we want our child care.”

The University of Rochester’s statement:

“We are committed to offering a compensation package for unionized employees that's highly competitive, as well as fair and equitable with our non-union staff. We are not seeking to reduce pay or eliminate benefits for these employees. Instead, the changes we're recommending would make it easier for both the university and the union to understand the health needs of employees and better control costs for health care coverage. We are always prepared to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair and equitable contract.”

Both parties will meet again to re-negotiate this Monday.