Union members at the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s care facility and hospital today overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike. While that doesn’t mean the nurses, their aides, medical-records workers and other caregivers are walking off the job immediately, it does mean they could if current negotiations between the facility and SEIU over staffing and other issues break down. “Negotiations with the facility’s management are ongoing but our members wanted to be in a position to act if necessary,” Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West spokesman Jarard Kings told Deadline. Earlier today, MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher sent out a letter (read it here) to union members telling them that management’s offers are “fair, maybe even generous, compared to other organizations. About 500 members of the SEIU-UHW are employed at the MPTF’s Wasserman Campus in Woodland Hills. Of those 500 members, 120 are direct caregivers, the union says.Over three days of voting, 300 members cast a ballot with 98% approving the strike authorization.
At issue in this latest crisis at the venue are low staffing levels, raised health care premiums and frozen retirement contributions. “What’s pushing and driving this action are the staffing issues. The staff ratios are not good and if there just aren’t enough people then the health care workers can’t do their jobs properly,” Kings said. “We put out a package for safe staffing out there in September and the hospital outright rejected it, which was a big surprise to us,” he added. The union proposal was to ensure there would be one caregiver for every eight patients; currently, the ratio averages as high as 12 patients per caregiver. There are about 181 beds in the facility at present. The SEIU-UHW members’ contract expired in October and has been extended twice, with the latest extension ending today.