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St. James Healthcare Teamsters push for wage increase

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Aug 19 2013 06:07:11 PM MDT
BUTTE, Mont. -

Members of the Teamsters Local #2 union that work for St. James Healthcare in Butte are picketing the hospital.

NBC Montana spoke to union members and the hospital administrators to try and get to the bottom of the issue.

St. James Healthcare and the Teamsters have met ten times in the last fourteen months to come up with a contract they both agree upon. There has been no luck so far, which is why they're bringing in a third party to help mediate and come up with a solution.

Teamster Karen Bouley said, "we've been working for over a year without a contract, we've come to an impasse and we can't make an agreement."

We met Bouley on the picket line Monday morning. She said they're not happy with their wages and are picketing to raise awareness in the community.

"St. James had hit some financial hardships in the past year and we gave back," she explained. "We gave back to the hospital to help get them through, and now that they're showing a profit, we just want something back."

St. James Chief Financial Officer Jay Doyle told us the hospital put in place cost saving measures across every department to help financial stability.

Doyle said the hospital has offered the teamsters an increase, but said the teamsters originally wanted twice what the hospital was offering.

"We're offering three percent, they can use in any way they would like," said Doyle. "They could use it across the board or use it to reinstate their step increases, but as a hospital, all we can afford is three percent."

Teamster Daniel Doogan said that number is misleading, explaining the three percent would equally roughly $150,000, but that money doesn't necessarily equate to much higher wages.

"Out of that 147,000, they're asking us to pay back $90,000 just to restore our step system," Doyle explained, "which leaves us with barely one percent in increases for basic wages."

Both parties have agrees to a third party negotiation to try and settle the dispute.

Negotiations between the Teamsters and St. James start Tuesday at 9 a.m. Both parties are optimistic that they can come to an agreement by the end of the day.