Hundreds Of Essentia Health St. Mary's Employees Vote On Wages

By KBJR News 1

December 19, 2012 Updated Dec 19, 2012 at 11:19 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - More than 1,200 union employees at Essentia Health St. Mary's voted Wednesday on a contract offer that affects their wages and benefits.

This is the first time since the summer 2012 that action has been taken.

Union employees have been without a contract and in negotiations since July.

Essentia Health officials say they've met with members 20 times since April and they're hopeful the contract will be approved.

Healthcare facility officials submitted their final offer for today's vote.

Those voting work in a variety of fields, such as: environmental services, registration staff, billing, clinical assistance, and other professions within the Essentia Health system.

The current contract requires wages to be voted upon on a regular basis.

"We feel that we have made an offer, especially for the first year that is very fair, it does include a wage increase for the first year. But because of the uncertainty that we see surrounding the federal and state reimbursements, the offer calls for any negotiations to be renegotiated in the second and third year," Kim Kaiser, Essentia Health spokesperson, said.

Kaiser says the offer Essentia Health St. Mary's has made is both cautious and fiscally responsible due to the uncertainties with state and federal reimbursement.

Voting ended at 7:00 P.M. at the Duluth Labor Temple.

The United Steelworkers Union officials were not able to comment on what's next, but they expect the results later this week.

Justin Reis, NNC.