ALBUQUERQUE — Nurses, support staff and resident physicians rallied outside UNM Hospital Wednesday to demand accountability for public funds and fair negotiations for the frontline healthcare providers who keep the hospital running.
Dozens of UNMH workers and professionals were joined by supportive colleagues, allies, and community members. Picket signs read, “Working Families WORK at UNMH,” “We Give Care/Can’t Afford Care,” and “Public Funds Demand Public Accountability,” to name a few.
“It is getting exceedingly difficult to cover my cost of living, and for my co-residents with families to do the same, when insurance at our own hospital is getting more expensive for us and our salary is stagnant,” said Dany BouRaad, MD, a psychiatry resident and CIR delegate.
UNMH’s three major labor unions, CIR, 1199, and CWA, joined forces to create the UNMH labor coalition. Frontline workers at UNMH make less money than other hospitals in the southwest area. This year they were told their health care costs would increase and that there was no money for raises. This effectively means a pay cut to the lowest paid workers.
Executives at UNMH have received raises despite the hospital’s claim of having no money available for raises. Just last week it was announced that UNM President Bob Frank will assume a newly created position as director of the Center of Innovation in Health and Education at $350,000 per year in addition to $100,000 in deferred compensation for retiring. He will also receive full university benefits, a six month paid leave for professional development, and moving compensation to relocate from the campus.
“It is the opinion of the Union that the current policy of UNMH management to not provide fair compensation and raises to the frontline providers while at the same time increasing out of pocket healthcare costs is in effect creating a class of “indentured servants” in 2016 America,” said District 1199 NM President Lorie MacIver, RN.
Healthcare workers are concerned that patient care will suffer as a result of UNMH’s inability to attract and retain experienced staff. As a safety-net hospital, this directly affects the quality of patient care provided to New Mexico’s most vulnerable population.
“UNM Hospital is the only level 1 trauma hospital in the entire state of New Mexico,” said CWA President Donal Alire, who represents health technicians and support staff. “As such, all citizens of this state should be concerned that all workers in the hospital are treated fairly and compensated equal to surrounding hospitals. Right now that is not happening and it is causing the hospital to lose experienced workers.”
The UNMH labor coalition is demanding the following:
- A healthcare committee to negotiate benefits with representation by all 3 unions.
- Fair raises to ALL UNMH workers.
- Begin contract negotiations before the budget is finalized.
- Accountability for public funds to UNMH.
Union members will attend the Board of Commissioners Meeting this Thursday, September 29 at 5:00pm at 1 Civic Plaza, Albuquerque, NM. It is expected that public turnout will be high. The actions against UNMH employees affects every citizen, as well as workers.