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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Puerto Rican Hospital Chided for Labor Issues

(CN) - A Puerto Rican hospital must reinstate eight respiratory therapists, the National Labor Relations Board ruled, finding several instances of unfair practices.

Quality Health Services of Puerto Rico Inc. repeatedly broke federal labor laws by changing conditions of work and eliminating the entire respiratory therapy department to subcontract the work out, Administrative Law Judge Geoffrey Carter ruled.

In addition to the reinstatements, Carter ordered Hospital San Cristobal in Puerto Rico to stop subcontracting jobs out without bargaining with the union. He also said the hospital must cease and desist from further violations.

Carter's 26-page decision notes a repeated failure of the hospital "to correct its pattern of making unlawful unilateral changes to working conditions."

The hospital committed the unilateral changes three times in the span of three months, according to the NLRB. The work was first unilaterally contracted out in March of 2011, then employee discretion for vacation time was limited or eliminated in April, and the respiratory therapy employees were unilaterally fired in July. Their work was then subcontracted out.

Federal law says such action may be taken only after union negotiations reach an impasse, Carter wrote. But in this case, the impasse never happened and the union remained willing to negotiate in the wake of the terminations.

The NLRB says this is the third adverse decision by an administrative law judge against the hospital in two years. In February 2011, the NLRB affirmed a decision finding that the hospital unlawfully reduced the number of paid holidays and eliminated its practice of paying holiday pay to employees whose day off fell on a holiday.

In that case, the hospital again failed to bargain with the union.

The hospital's respiratory therapy technicians, licensed practical nurses, and operating room and radiology technicians are represented by the Unidad Laboral de Enfermeras(os) y Empleados de la Salud. Their collective bargaining agreement with the hospital expired in 2010.

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