In February 2006, the union won the right to represent about 1,200 eligible licensed vocational nurses, technicians, food service workers, clerical staffers and other support-service workers. Late last month, the hospital offered a 5 percent pay hike retroactive to July 2006, a 4.2 percent increase effective this month; and another 4.2 percent pay raise effective in July 2008. The hospital also agreed to not subcontract out housekeeping or food services work during the length of the contract. Workers said the hospital pay offer is not enough and want an industry-standard contract comparable to what other hospitals and health care organizations have. Salaries at AVH are as low as $8.35 an hour, they said. Licensed vocational nurses and nurse assistants handle up to 14 to 16 patients during a shift. More preferable would be a patient-to-staff ratio of 10-to-1, workers said. LANCASTER – Dozens of Antelope Valley Hospital workers picketed Thursday outside the hospital to protest the inability to agree on a contract despite more than a year of negotiations. Employees said they are seeking higher wages, better staffing levels, improved health benefits and the use of employees rather than subcontracting jobs. “We deserve the same improvements in retirement and health care benefits that the (registered nurses) got. We deserve the same no-subcontracting clause that the RNs got in their contract,” said Duane Roberts, a respiratory therapist and bargaining team member. “We don’t want the formation of a two-tier system of employees where one group gets everything and the other group gets leftovers.” Negotiations started in July 2006 between the hospital and Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West. Union officials, who said the hospital has intimidated employees, have filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the state Public Employment Relations Board. Workers, some wearing purple SEIU T-shirts, walked along 15th Street West holding signs that read, “Ban on Subcontracting,” “Safe Staffing Now!” and “Fair Contract Now!” Hospital officials said they are offering a fair wage and benefits package in light of the financial challenges the hospital is facing. The hospital reported a year-to-date loss of $11.2 million at the end of May. “That’s a lot of money,” Chief Executive Officer Ed Mirzabegian said of the proposed pay hikes. “We can’t afford more than that.” Mirzabegian said the hospital is following state regulations on staffing ratios, and said with regard to subcontracting that no one’s job is guaranteed, not even his. The PERB complaint, he said, doesn’t make sense. Hospital officials said SEIU has compared wages paid at Antelope Valley Hospital to those at Kaiser Permanente, Catholic Healthcare West and Hospital Corporation of America, which are some of the largest health care systems in the country. “We are a local, not-for-profit hospital that does not receive any tax dollars from the city or from L.A. County,” Mirzabegian said. [email protected] (661) 267-5744160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!