After nearly two years of negotiations, workers and management at Tri-Cities Community Health have reached an agreement on a new union contract.
Members of Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 8 voted in favor of the contract this week, officials told the Herald on Friday.
About 94 percent of members who attended the meeting voted yes.
"TCCH is pleased that we have negotiated a contract with union employees that is fair for all employees and fair for the organization," clinic officials said in a statement Friday. "The goal of TCCH is to provide, at a minimum, the current level of care to our patients during these uncertain financial times.
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"Negotiations are a process of compromise and management is pleased we have come to a mutually acceptable agreement. We feel the successful negotiation of this contract enables TCCH as an organization, one and all, to move forward. Our thanks to all who worked long and hard to get us to this point."
The management at Tri-Cities Community Health, formerly known as Community Health Center La Clinica, and union negotiators have been at odds for about two years as they attempt to negotiate a new contract to replace one that expired in March 2010.
Union members in June voted to prepare for a strike after clinic management proposed an indefinite wage freeze, pay cut and increased health premiums for workers.
That proposal was based on the expectation the clinic would lose about $1.6 million from its $14 million operating budget as the result of state budget cuts, and likely would face more losses as state agencies prepare for more cuts by the end of the year.
Clinic officials have said throughout negotiations that they wanted to avoid cutting services for patients, many of whom are low-income.
The clinic proposed to make up part of the lost $1.6 million by laying off the equivalent of 15 full-time employees to save $500,000; increasing the amount employees pay for insurance from 13 percent to 20 percent of premiums for a $370,000 savings; and a 3 percent across-the-board salary cut for everyone except medical providers and dentists to save about $300,000.
A summary provided by the union said the new contract retains the 3 percent pay cut and freezes step increases in 2012, but calls for management to take the same wage reductions and maintains the 13 percent share employees currently pay for health premiums.
The union agreed to some layoffs but fewer than were originally proposed, union officials said.
"We employees are a part of TCCH and value what we do for the community. We were willing to make sacrifices to help our patients, save jobs and keep our union standard contract," union members said in a statement.
Once signed by both parties, the contract would be effective through Oct. 31, 2013.