Just days before Prime Healthcare Services finalizes its acquisition of Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, Prime Healthcare announced today that agreements have been reached with the hospital’s three major labor unions.

Agreements were reached with JNESO District Council 1, District 1199J (National Union of Hospital and Health Care Workers) and the Operating Engineers Local 68. District 1199J members ratified their collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday. The Operating Engineers have scheduled a vote on Friday and JNESO is scheduled to vote on its agreement next week. The three unions represent more than 780 of Saint Michael’s 1,400 employees.

Saint Michael's Medical Center employees, members of District 1199J, rally last year to save the hospital. The union was one of three representing workers at the hospital to reach labor agreements.

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“We are grateful to the leadership of the three unions for meeting us at the table and negotiating agreements that are fair to the employees and their families and will ensure the long-term viability of the hospital,” said Luis Leon, president of hospital operations for Prime Healthcare. “We look forward to furthering the mission of Saint Michael’s and preserving compassionate, quality healthcare for future generations of Newarkers.”

Prime Healthcare maintained substantially all of Saint Michael’s staff, reducing just 29 positions, less than 2 percent of the hospital’s workforce. Nearly half of the positions were in management. After three years of regulatory review, Prime Healthcare received all necessary approval to purchase the hospital. Prime Healthcare’s acquisition of Saint Michael’s is expected to be finalized on May 1.

“I am pleased that Prime Healthcare has stood by its pledge to rehire substantially all of Saint Michael’s employees and that it worked closely with the unions to reach agreements even before it acquired the hospital,” said Newark Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, who has led the fight to save the hospital. “Prime Healthcare has demonstrated that it is committed to Saint Michael’s employees and their families, many of whom live in Newark and Essex County.”

Sue Cleary, president of 1199J, said her membership is looking forward to a “productive and positive relationship” with Prime Healthcare. 

“On behalf of the more than 400 District 1199J members at St. Michael's Medical Center I am pleased that we have been able to reach agreement on a collective bargaining agreement that provides for continuation of our health, pension and training fund benefits as well maintaining many other hard fought gains that we have achieved over the past 40 plus years,” Cleary said. “I commend Prime's leadership for recognizing the value of positive labor relations and we look forward to a long and productive relationship.

Drew Alban, shop steward for Operating Engineers Local 68, who has worked at the hospital for 28 years, said the members of his union were pleased with the agreement.

“We’re all happy,” Alban said. “We’re glad we’re staying open and we’re glad we joined together to ensure Prime acquired Saint Michael’s. Our goal all along was to keep the hospital open so we could continue to serve the community.”
Doug Placa, the executive director of JNESO, said the union plans to recommend that his membership ratify the contract when they vote on it next week.