Outsourced UPMC workers protest cuts

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FAIR SHAKE—Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is halted by building security as she tries to deliver a letter on behalf of outsourced UPMC transcriptionists to CEO Jeffrey Romoff. (Photo by J.L. Martello.)

 

A month after they were told their transcription jobs would now be handled by an outside company, and days before the layoffs became official, medical transcriptionists  from UPMC, joined by union and community activists, former UPMC workers and Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner rallied outside company headquarters demanding to be treated more fairly.

Wagner tried to deliver a letter to UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff, but guards at the US Steel building locked the doors, telling her only people with building ID tags could enter.

Though city police eventually arrived at the scene, no arrests were made.

Al B. Turner, a former UPMC shuttle driver from the North Side, joined his friend in the protest saying the company treats all its hourly employees poorly.

“We all need to support each other,” he said. “I’m here to back them because UPMC outsourced their jobs and kicked us to the curb.”

According to a press release from the Service Employees International Union, the transcriptionists are asking for severance pay, health insurance through their new employer, no contesting of unemployment claims, and an apology from UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff for “tossing them aside.”

However, when UPMC announced the layoffs in May, it also announced all the displaced employees would be given positions with the new company, Nuance.  Nuance, creators of the popular Dragon voice-recognition software, also makes medical transcription software that UPMC is using to a greater extent, reducing the need for transcriptions.

The marchers said their pay for the same work at Nuance has been reduced by nearly half, from $12-15 per hour to $8 per hour.

Ann Joyal, spokesperson for Nuance Healthcare, confirmed the company had offered jobs to all the UPMC transcriptionists.  She did not say what the new rate of pay for the same level of work was, but did say it is possible that their healthcare coverage and contributions would be different than what they had when working for an insurance provider.

“Of those employees, 105 took the same position, seven were promoted—two to supervisor, two retired and 12 took other roles within UPMC,” she said. “But other than the ones who were promoted, they are all working from the same locations as before (some remotely from home) and on the same schedule. We tried to make the transition as seamless as possible.”

UPMC is the largest hospital network in western Pennsylvania. It reported a $146.5 million profit on total revenues of $7.6 billion for the nine months ending March 31, which was 50 percent lower than the previous year.

(Send comments to cmorrow@new­pittsburgh­courier.com.)

 

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