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UNMH workers walk out of contract talks

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A bargaining unit that represents some 4,000 health care personnel at University of New Mexico Hospital walked out of negotiations on Friday after hospital officials refused to consider a freeze on out-of-pocket costs for employee health insurance, a union leader said Monday.

MACIVER: "Hold the line on out-of-pocket costs"

MACIVER: “Hold the line on out-of-pocket costs”

The bargaining team of District 1199 New Mexico of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees at University of New Mexico Hospitals objected to UNMH’s plan to raise copayments and deductibles, together with no pay raise, said Lorie MacIver, District 1199 president.

The local represents a wide range of UNMH employees, including nurses, pharmacists, technicians and housekeepers.

“If they can’t find money to give employees at least a small raise, then hold the line on out-of-pocket costs for health insurance,” MacIver said at a news conference outside UNMH.

The two sides had negotiated since May 18 to craft a contract to replace one that expires Thursday. MacIver said she expects talks to resume at an undetermined time. Employees likely will work under the terms of the existing contract until a new one is reached, she said.

UNMH said Monday that it does not comment about ongoing contract negotiations.

“UNM Hospital is fully committed to providing the highest quality care to its patients, which would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our talented staff,” UNMH spokesman John Arnold said in a written statement. “We will continue to participate in good faith negotiations to reach an accord.”

UNMH had proposed deductible increases to $300 for individuals and $600 for families, up from the current rate of $250 for individuals and $500 for families, MacIver said. She was unsure of the proposed increase in copayments.

Higher out-of-pocket costs would be a hardship, particularly for low-wage employees such as housekeepers, who earn as little as $10 an hour, she said.