The West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities was forced to raise the base wage rates of direct care employees at its two psychiatric hospitals - Mildred-Mitchell Bateman Hospital in Huntington and William R. Sharpe, Jr. Hospital in Weston - by $3 million starting on January 1 as the result of a settlement agreement with Mountain State Justice (MSJ), the Charleston-based, public-interest law firm which represents the hospitals' patients in the so-called Hartley case. UE Local 170 has been working closely with MSJ over the past four years to address ongoing staffing problems at the two hospitals.
Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom had threatened BHHF with contempt of court if it did not develop a plan to address the ongoing staffing problems at the two hospitals. BHHF had agreed to a settlement agreement in 2009 to address the staffing problems by raising the wages of direct care staff, ending mandatory overtime except in cases of emergencies, and ending the use of temporary or contract employees, but never completely followed through with the agreement. UE Local 170 reached out to MSJ in 2010 to inform them that BHHF had not fully implemented the 2009 agreement.
Under its new plan, BHHF had the WV Division of Personnel conduct a market study of the wage rates of direct care employees at other hospitals in the geographic areas around the two psychiatric hospitals. Based on the DOP's market study, BHHF developed new base wage rates for the direct care employees. You can see the new base wage rates here. If current employees base wages were below the new rates, the employees' base wages are to raised up to the new rates effective January 1. In addition, any direct care employee who was in their current position for at least three years, will receive an additional three percent pay increase, and will receive an additional three percent increase every three years hereafter. Every year, BHHF will have the DOP conduct a market study to see if it needs to increase the direct care employees' base wage rates.
While UE Local 170 appreciates all of Judge Bloom's and MSJ's efforts to address the direct care staffing problems at the state's two psychiatric hospitals, UE Local 170 is calling on BHHF to raise the wages of all of its employees and adequately staff all of its facilities. UE Local 170 will be undertaking a campaign in the coming months at the state hospitals to win improved wages and working conditions for all of BHHF's employees.