Union tries to make end run around PMC

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor
Union tries to make end run around PMC
LUMINARIA BAGS — After the sun began to set at the Relay for Life event the Luminaria bags were lit in honor of loved ones who had battled cancer. What an outpouring of support and quite a sight at that. Cook made a point to take her team members around to the bags that she had sold and tell them a little something about the people who purchased them. Photo courtesy of Ruth Cook
   At last week’s commission meeting, two union representatives from the Pondera Medical Center were on hand to address commission chairman Sandy Broesder and Joe Christiaens. Cyndi Johnson was present by use of speaker phone.
   The union representatives from the PMC were Judy Miller and Marilyn Copenhaver. Union representative Chris Laslovich was also on hand but did not speak.
   Miller told the commissioners that they have been in negotiations with the hospital since November; however, “The Pondera Medical Center Board is not negotiating in good faith.”
   Copenhaver pointed out that the workers in the hospital are essential to the PMC and that the facility is vital to the community. She also told the commissioners there is strong support of the employees and many want this to go through.
   Nevertheless, while not being specific, they feel like they are hitting a brick wall with the PMC board, and “We would like the commissioner’s help to make this work.”
   Broesder explained to the union representatives, “We, as commissioners, have no jurisdiction. We can look into the complaint, but they are a legal board. We can express our concerns, but legally we have no standing.”
   She went on to add that the only involvement the commission has with the board is to appoint members.
   The PMC board is not involved in the negotiations with the union.
   The hospital has engaged the services of attorney Dan Johns who has experience in working with unions on labor contracts.
   There has never been a union at the hospital and the local management has little if any experience in that field, while on the other hand, the union has sent three paid professionals to each session in order to pursue its interest(s).
   The PMC is digging out from a very bad, financially, last year where they missed their budget by close to one million dollars.
   The PMC is still not in the black and cash flow difficulties have been predicted for the month of July. Pay raises, new incentives for insurance and better employee discounts on in-house services have been offered to the union.
   One other sticking point is that the PMC feels all employees should be free to decide for themselves if they would like to join the union and pay their dues. The union, however, proposes that no choice be given to employees and that every employee pay dues or risk losing their job.
   J.D. Duncan, Human Resources Director at the PMC commented, “We always strive to be fair to our employees and be fiscally responsible. We have to operate within our means, and we believe our employees understand that.”
   In other business, the commission passed Resolution-34 which will allow the loaning to funds having negative cash balance. They also passed R-34, giving forgiveness of repayment of a $14,962.50 loan, treating this as a transfer from the General Fund to the Port Authority Fund.
   They also approved the final payments on the Valier CTEP project. The first payment was for $6,964.45 and the final payment was for $1,500.
   Commissioner Johnson moved to appoint Clerk and Recorder Janice Hoppes, Broesder, and herself as county signators for the Brady Water/Sewer CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) grant. Motion passed.
   A forage removal agreement with Leonard Wilke on the Mallard Springs road was approved, and a quote from Conrad Building Center for repairs to the county road shop  in Conrad OK’d and a farm rental agreement was passed with the Bouma brothers (Howard and Ray) for farmland by the airport.
   One abatement, number 683, was approved, a road opening agreement was passed, allowing 3 Rivers Communications to install fiber optic cable under Birch Creek Colony Rd., and a another forage removal agreement was passed, this one for Skorupa Farms.
   The commission holds their regular business meeting on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. in their office at courthouse. The public is always welcome and encouraged to attend.