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No contract deal struck for Mercy Health Muskegon workers as deadline passes

The end-of-January deadline was set by the union earlier this month, calling on the hospital's parent company to finish negotiations.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Trinity Health and the union representing Mercy Health Muskegon healthcare workers have yet to reach a contract agreement. The end-of-January deadline was set by the union earlier this month, calling on the hospital's parent company to finish negotiations.

The union will now have a vote of action Tuesday, Feb. 1. It's unclear if that means there'll be a strike or other action taken by the healthcare workers. 

"It's just, you know, we're beating our heads against the wall," said respiratory therapist Cyndi Zeanwick. "It took them a very long time to even start negotiating this contract at most, some contracts have been expired up to four years."

She says the environment at the hospital has been getting worse since the start of the pandemic.

"Every single colleague that I have talked to in the last four to six months has had it. Like I said, we're bleeding staff," Zeanwick says. "They're all going elsewhere. They're following where the money is going. And you can't blame them."

She's part of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1,800 nurses, tech and service and support staff at the hospital. While the cost of living and rate of inflation has increased, Zeanwick says no one in the union has gotten a raise in years.

"The biggest thing that we need to get to right now is we need to get to economics. And we need to talk about our wage scales and our benefits and things like that," she says.

A spokesperson for Mercy Health Muskegon issued a statement Monday:

"The RNs, Tech and Support units at Mercy Health Muskegon have been represented by SEIU for years and we have always reached agreements with the union. Mercy Health Muskegon leadership and the RN, Service & Support and Tech units have been exchanging bargaining proposals for a new contract since February 2021.

Our negotiations are currently focused on non-economic items; and Mercy Health Muskegon has openly expressed our desire to increase the pace of the current negotiations to also address economic items. We have offered retention bonuses and sign-on bonuses, which the union membership recently voted down. Mercy Health Muskegon is currently providing critical staffing pay to many classifications of workers.

We look forward to increasing the pace of our negotiations, with the ultimate goal of reaching new agreements with the union. We very much value our colleagues, and want nothing more than to reach a mutual agreement. We have been dedicating our time and energy into creating something that is fair for our colleagues and the organization. We have been able to do so in the past, and see no reason we will not reach agreements with the union."

The union opposed the latest bonuses offered by the hospital because they say it both wasn't enough and it wasn't for everybody. 

"They need to prove to us in this community that they really care about their colleagues and that they care about this community," Zeanwick says.

A spokesperson with Mercy Health Muskegon tells 13 ON YOUR SIDE that they are dedicated to these negotiations and they see no reason that they won't reach an agreement with the union. 

Union workers have yet to say what they would do if a deal isn't struck by midnight. 

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