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November 24, 2015

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Union member: ‘A huge insult’:

UMC employees to take 2 percent pay cut

Pay decrease will save the county $4.4 million over a year


Sam Morris / File photo

University Medical Center is Clark County's only publicly funded hospital.

UMC Pay Cuts

KSNV coverage of pay cuts at University Medical Center, Aug. 16, 2011.

Against the wishes of about 3,000 unionized University Medical Center workers, Clark County commissioners approved a binding agreement to cut union pay by 2 percent and force members to pay back to the county about $280 each.

That means UMC employees will see $13 less in their paychecks every two weeks for 21 pay periods.

Before the vote to approve the pay cut — it passed on 5-2 vote with Commissioners Lawrence Weekly and Tom Collins voting no — Collins argued against members paying anything back. The debate extended to state law, the definition of “retroactive pay,” and other topics as commissioners strongly sympathetic to the union tried to negate the $280 payback.

The requirement that employees pay back part of their wages was forced by an agreement struck in April between the county and the union. UMC union members had refused to ratify an agreement between the county and their union, the Service Employees International Union.

The two sides went to an arbitrator, with both agreeing to abide by whatever the arbitrator said and that the new contract would be effective May 3, 2010.

Months later, the arbitrator chose the county’s proposal to cut pay 2 percent — the same pay cut endured by SEIU members who work for other county agencies. But because the pay cut was retroactive, union members would have to return that 2 percent they were paid between May 3 and when the two sides agreed to a final contract.

SEIU President Al Martinez said he was “taken aback” when he learned about the payback provision. He claimed that portion of the agreement was signed after binding arbitration, which might make it less binding.

A county lawyer, however, said the May 3 provision was signed by an SEIU representative in April.

UMC nurses and others pleaded with commissioners not to force them to pay back money.

“I don’t know if there’s a union in America that’s had to give back what they already had,” one member said. “I think the 2 percent cut, the 2 percent retroactive (payback) was a huge insult.”

Ed Euhling, a businessman who often speaks at commission meetings, urged commissioners to stick with the agreement.

“Here we have all these tears shed for these employees,” he said. “And here we have 200,000 people (in Las Vegas) who have lost their jobs. Not 2 percent of their pay, but 100 percent of their pay.”

The 2 percent pay cut over a year will save the county $4.4 million. Merit pay maximums for union members will be capped at 3.4 percent instead of 6 percent, saving about $248,000. In total, the county will save about $4.6 million from concessions in the contract.

If the UMC workers were allowed to keep that $280 each, the savings would be $1.1 million less.

Commissioners argued over the definition of retroactive and whether they could alter the binding agreement.

The county’s attorney, Mary Ann Miller, said that if commissioners were to alter one part of the agreement, they could reasonably expect another concession from the union.

“It’s $1.1 million,” she added. “You don’t give it away without getting something in return. Doing that would raise the question that you are violating your fiduciary duty.”

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