Essentia employees protest 900 layoffs

A union representing 50,000 U.S. healthcare workers is protesting Duluth, Minn.-based Essentia Health's plans to lay off 900 employees, about 6 percent of its workforce, according to the Star Tribune.

Essentia announced last month it is laying off the clinical and support employees to help offset $100 million in losses from declines in patient volume since the beginning of March. The health system already has placed 850 employees on administrative leave, reduced physician and executive pay, cut some leadership positions and limited capital spending.

United Steelworkers Local 9460 President Deanna Hughes, told the Star Tribune June 1 that the union opposes any layoffs, "especially since the [COVID-19] surge hasn't hit our area yet."

Ms. Hughes said the layoffs will affect more than the targeted 300 union members in the Duluth area and are "going to make access for the community that much harder."

The Star Tribune reported that the union is working with Essentia on which jobs are affected by the layoffs and is seeking furloughs or other solutions.

Essentia told Becker's Hospital Review it has "tried to be as transparent as possible with all of our stakeholders while navigating significant declines in patient volume and revenue."

"We have followed the proper protocol laid out in union contracts with respect to our recent workforce reduction," Essentia spokesperson Louie St. George said June 2, the day after union members participated in an informational picket over the layoffs.

"Essentia is doing everything possible to make sure we are here to make a healthy difference in the lives of our patients not only for an expected influx of COVID cases, but well into the future," he said.


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