The Times West Virginian


October 16, 2013

All working toward keeping Fairmont General alive and vibrant

We have been extremely encouraged by what we have seen from the union workers at Fairmont General Hospital.

You have probably read where they overwhelmingly ratified a new contract last week. And that contract froze any wage increases for at least a year while also calling for the employees to pay part of their own health-care premiums. That’s something they had never done before. Such suggestions usually result in long and messy contract talks.

These union employees are certainly tuned into the situation. They are aware that the hospital recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And as Jason Ware, the administrative organizer for Service Employees international Union (SEIU) recently stated, “Employees came in wanting to save the hospital. They came into negotiations knowing about the bankruptcy, and in order for the hospital to survive, it was going to take sac­rifice by the employees, and that’s where it ended up.”

The SEIU union even sincerely suggested many ways the hospital could cut back.

One involves some sacrifice by the employees. The hospital certainly received that.

“That’s a very unusual situation to be in,” Ware said. These union employees, which number around 300, gave up an estimated $1 million annually over the course of the three-year contract, which does not expire until Oct. 31, 2016. But lawyers for the hospital said that a clause was put into the contract saying that if things get better, the hospital can renegotiate wages in a year. That offers a ray of hope for the union employees.

The Fairmont General employees were well aware of the big changes that have occurred at Fairmont General over the past weeks. The first announcement was that Fairmont General president CEO Robert  Marquardt was no longer employed at the hospital and then followed similar announcements that vice president of finance/CFO Dan Honerbrink and FGH vice president of human resources Jim Harris were gone as well.

There were many other things the SEIU did to make their contract easier on the hospital.

At the time of the announcement, attorney Michael Garrison said that he has spent “a lot of time with the board, and the board took a lot of time to really scrutinize its options. They all understand very clearly their fiduciary duty, and they made a difficult vote, but they made it because they really want to keep an acute-care hospital in Marion County.”

Everyone wants to see that happen.

Kevin Carr, an attorney at Spilman Thomas & Battle, served as the lead negotiator for the hospital and expressed how much the employees impressed him.

“I think it was evident on our side of the table that employees and the union leadership were very, very serious about not only making sure they took care of the members and make sure they had a fair wage and a good benefit package, but it also struck us that they were very serious about making changes that would put the hospital in a position to be viable and continue to provide services in the community,” he said.

“I was personally struck by how much the hospital meant to them and how cooperatively they were willing to address the issues.”

The hospital’s other union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store (RWDS) Union Local 550, will enter negotiations today. This union represents about 170-180 support services and maintenance employees.

So far everyone appears to be working together to save the hospital and showing the kind of esprit de corps that should do just that. These contract negotiations could have indeed been messy. Instead everyone seems to be working toward the same objective — keeping Fairmont General Hospital alive and vibrant.

Text Only
  • Time is now for Tomblin to support King Coal Highway

    U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to add the King Coal Highway project to West Virginia’s six-year highway improvement plan. It is a logical request, and one that Tomblin should act promptly on.

    July 29, 2014

  • United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont is essential project

    The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.
    That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.

    July 27, 2014

  • COLUMN: Calling all readers: Be heard

    I love to talk to readers.
    I love to hear concerns they have about stories we’ve written, things they think should be included in the newspaper and things they think shouldn’t be.

    July 27, 2014

  • Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial

    NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
    And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?

    Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
    I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.

    July 20, 2014

  • Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions

    This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
    The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    July 18, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads