The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 27, 2013

ARH, Unions Reach Tentative Labor Agreement

HAZARD, KY. — Appalachian Regional Healthcare says it has reached a tentative labor contract with workers at facilities in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia.

Julius Pearson, who is director of employment and labor relations at ARH, told WYMT that ARH and the United Steelworkers reached the proposed agreement on Tuesday, but workers still need to vote on it.

“We’re very hopeful and we’re excited that the two sides, ARH and USW worked so hard to reach this agreement,” Pearson said.  “This tentative agreement reflects compromises by both parties, which were made in the long-term best interest of all stake-holders, including our communities we serve and all the employees who support the mission and the organization.”

Details of the agreement weren’t released because they are preliminary, but a main sticking point had been health benefits.

The United Steelworkers represents around 2,000 workers at ARH facilities including licensed practical nurses, certified nurse aids, and clerical, maintenance and housekeeping staff.

The union had issued a notice to strike if an agreement wasn’t reached by the time the current contract expires on March 31. Contract negotiations, which began in January, broke off last week but resumed on Monday.

According to its website, the not-for-profit ARH employs almost 5,000 workers at 10 facilities in the region that includes hospitals, physician practices and home health agencies. It serves about 350,000 people in the region.

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