EDITORIAL: UMC contract needs surgery


Clark County is negotiating new contracts with the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, and one major sticking point is management’s desire to eliminate longevity pay for future hires. The SEIU, of course, wants things to continue as if Las Vegas were still in the boom years of a decade ago. News flash: It’s not.

Whether the county is committed to its position will be revealed Tuesday, when the County Commission is expected to vote on a new contract for about 3,000 University Medical Center employees. The pact not only includes a compounded 5.6 percent pay raise over 18 months, restores merit pay raises and ends a freeze on longevity pay for current workers, it preserves longevity pay for future hires.

Longevity pay gives workers a 0.57 percent raise for every year of service at eight years and beyond. It has no nexus to performance, and it doesn’t exist in the private sector. Keeping longevity pay for future hires will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in the years ahead. It is pure gravy.

Bargaining groups across the valley, including the Metropolitan Police Department, have given up longevity pay for future hires in recent negotiations.

The UMC contract is significant because the county and the SEIU are nowhere close to agreement on a contract for the county’s 5,000 rank-and-file employees. The union wants to preserve longevity pay for those workers, too. If the UMC contract is approved, it will set a precedent. An arbitrator could decide that because longevity pay was preserved for UMC employees, it should be kept for future county hires, as well.

In fairness, many UMC employees, especially nurses, are not paid as well as workers at private-sector hospitals in the valley. Although UMC nurses can look forward to a pension, while private-sector nurses have 401(k) plans, UMC’s lower wages and working conditions have convinced many nurses to jump ship and take home more money now.

That puts UMC in an understandably difficult position — but not one that should cause commissioners to cave. The pay raises in the proposed contract, which are quite generous in today’s economic conditions, are acceptable. Retaining longevity pay for future hires, however, is not.

The UMC contract cannot be allowed to go forward as written. The commission should reject the deal and direct negotiators to trade the pay raises for the eventual end of longevity pay. Anything short of that puts the county at a huge negotiating disadvantage going forward, with the taxpayers — as always — coming away as the biggest losers.

 

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