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Union backs study of Catholic Health finances

A union that represents thousands of workers in the Catholic Health System is probing the hospital system’s finances to provide it with ammunition for contract negotiations.

The Communications Workers of America chapter hired a consultant to sift through publicly available financial information for Catholic Health, its Kaleida Health competitor and other hospitals to compare the systems’ revenues and expenses.

The study concludes that Catholic Health earns tens of millions of dollars a year, but instead of investing that money in its workers, or in programs that benefit the community, the region’s second-largest hospital system socks it away in reserves or uses it to reward its top executives.

Catholic Health officials said Tuesday they couldn’t comment on specific claims in the report because they haven’t seen the document. But, speaking generally, they said the system operates transparently and treats its employees fairly, and the motivation behind the report is clear.

“We believe that obviously (the consultant’s) efforts are tied toward building the CWA’s bargaining strategy,” said Michael J. Moley, senior vice president and chief human resource officer for Catholic Health.

The CWA hired Dr. Fred Hyde, a doctor and consultant who teaches at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business, to look into Catholic Health’s financial health, as it prepares for contract negotiations set to begin this summer. The CWA has previously retained Hyde’s services in dealings with Catholic Health and Kaleida Health.

The union represents about 3,500 workers at Mercy Hospital, Kenmore Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity Hospital’s St. Joseph campus. Debora Hayes, area director for the CWA, said the last round of bargaining, saw Catholic Health win concessions from workers after citing the need for belt-tightening.

Hyde contends Catholic Health is not investing in its workers.

His report said spending on wages and salaries for workers rose 2.6 percent between 2013 and 2014, while spending on wages, salaries and benefits, combined, rose just 0.6 percent during the same period.

In contrast, Hyde said, compensation for Joseph D. McDonald, Catholic Health’s president and CEO, rose from $872,000 in 2008 to $1.7 million in 2013, a figure that included a bonus of $355,199. McDonald still earned less than James R. Kaskie, Kaleida Health’s former president and CEO, in 2013, when Kaskie earned $1.9 million.

Moley said employees report in anonymous internal surveys that they are satisfied with their pay and benefits. In this year’s survey conducted by Press Ganey Associates, 62 percent of workers said their pay was fair, 17 percent said it wasn’t and 20 percent were neutral.

Moley said the company has boosted full- and part-time employment by more than 600 since 2004, to 8,800 workers today.

“Our focus has been certainly on serving this community’s needs in all aspects, focusing on the quality of care that we provide, patient safety and associates’ stability,” Moley said.