About 3,600 University Medical Center workers will take a 2 percent pay cut that will save the financially strapped county hospital about $5 million a year.
A majority of Clark County commissioners on Tuesday backed the pay reduction that came from a mediator's recent decision in binding fact-finding.
The pay cut covers the final two months of the contract that expired June 30 and will continue until the hospital and union work out another labor agreement.
The fact-finder noted the hospital's tough financial situation in a written opinion that the county and union agreed would be binding. UMC lost more than $70 million last year, in large part because the hospital covers poor and uninsured patients.
Union officials and some hospital workers objected to the pay cuts being retroactive to May 3. Employees will have the money -- a total of $1.1 million -- deducted from their paychecks.
"It's the retroactive portion that's really punching employees in the gut," said Al Martinez, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1107. "This puts undue burden on families."
After a lengthy discussion about scenarios to dilute or eliminate the retroactive pay cuts, commissioners voted 5-2 to accept the mediator's decision and have the employees repay the money over 21 pay periods to soften the impact.
Commissioners Tom Collins and Lawrence Weekly dissented. Both expressed opposition to retroactive pay cuts.
About 3,300 union workers and 300 nonunion employees will be affected.
Aside from wage reductions, workers will see the maximum for merit-pay raises shrink to 3.4 percent from 6 percent. The workers currently receive no cost-of-living raises.
Union leaders, a few commissioners and some workers said UMC nurses already are paid less than nurses at local private hospitals, making a pay reduction even more painful.
UMC chief executive Brian Brannman said he would compile a report comparing the hospital medical staff's earnings with those at other hospitals.
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she dislikes retroactive pay cuts because they punish workers who bargained in good faith.
She voted for them on condition that the union and county, in current bargaining, look for alternatives to save the $1.1 million.
A few commissioners said trimming UMC workers' wages was a difficult but unavoidable measure.
"It's just unfortunate that we've been put in this position because of the economy," Commissioner Susan Brager said.
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.