Service workers at Greater Baltimore Medical Center have reached a contract agreement, averting a three-day strike that had been scheduled to begin at noon today, officials of the union and the Towson hospital said yesterday.
The settlement brings an end to several months of contentious bargaining at three area hospitals. About 2,500 members of District 1199E- DC of the Service Employees International Union staged one-day strikes in January and March at GBMC, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Sinai Hospital.
They also picketed at the offices of hospital trustees and staged rallies, including one keynoted by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The union also is bargaining under a wage re-opener clause at Maryland General Hospital.
"We should be able to wrap that up shortly," said Robert Moore, union president. "We generally have an understanding that everybody will come to the same mark."
Sinai and Hopkins workers reached agreements last month, but a bargaining session a few days later at GBMC broke off abruptly, and the union scheduled the three-day walkout.
Kay Taylor, vice president of marketing at GBMC, said the agreement had been reached in "a real conciliatory meeting" late Tuesday.
Moore said the two sides had agreed not to discuss details of the agreement until workers can meet Monday and vote on the contract. However, he said the wage scale is "in the same ballpark" as those agreed to at Hopkins and Sinai.
Throughout the bargaining, the union said a key goal was to eliminate "poverty wages." Pay scales, which began as low as $7.52 an hour, will rise to at least $10 at Hopkins and $9.75 at Sinai by the end of the three-year agreements.
Most workers will receive raises of about 3 percent a year, but the lowest pay scales will increase by more than 10 percent a year.
"All this is certainly a victory for the workers on the low end," Moore said.
The union represents about 450 workers each at GBMC and Sinai and 1,500 at Hopkins. Its contracts cover departments such as housekeeping, nutrition and maintenance.