Sparing 450 jobs at Beth Israel
CEO's proposal trims cut to 150
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center employees are mostly praising the chief executive's proposals for slashing the number of potential layoffs from more than 600 to about 150 through a combination of wage freezes, salary cuts in high administrative jobs, and benefit reductions.
"Forgoing a salary increase is a bitter pill for me to swallow and a bitter pill for anybody to swallow, but I think people want teams to remain in place and not disrupt any member, whether it's a housekeeper or the administrative coordinator," said Lissa Kapust, a clinical social worker in behavioral neurology who has worked at the hospital for 30 years. "Walking through the hallways here, there's a feeling of anxiety, but also a sense we are going to pull together to get through this together."
The chief executive, Paul Levy, has held meetings with employees to find ways to spare the lowest-wage earners from the budget ax he needs to wield as revenues fall short by $20 million.
"This is a major victory and will mean a lot to more than 450 families who would otherwise lose their income," he wrote in a message to staff this week that he later posted on his blog, Running a Hospital. "We will do this at the same time we provide earnings protection to our 900 lowest-wage workers."
The steps he is proposing, which would save $16 million, include suspending the employer match for retirement plans, withholding some raises and rolling back executive increases, and eliminating cash payments for surplus earned time.
Job openings will not be filled and less-busy areas will have to reduce their headcount, Levy's plan also suggested. The employee barbecue will go, saving $50,000, as will reimbursement for cellphones and BlackBerrys, for an estimated $100,000, and an early retirement offer is being explored. But the marketing agreement with the Red Sox stays in place, not only because the contract is still in force, but also because of the visibility it affords, Levy said, responding to many employees who suggested it be ended.
An e-mail with his decisions will be sent within a week, Levy wrote Monday.
Linda Trainor, nurse coordinator in the surgical weight loss program, said she has been pleased with how budget deliberations have been handled. "Most people are willing to make a sacrifice so that our colleagues won't have to lose their jobs, or not as many," she said. "When I see people at AIG getting raises after a bailout and I see our CEO taking a pay cut, it makes me glad I work here. Sacrifice is the name of the game and not greed."
Mike Fadel of the 1199 Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers East, which is attempting to organize workers at the hospital, noted that Levy cut the ranks of low-wage workers "to the bone in mass layoffs five years ago." In an e-mailed statement, he said: "Before the sculptor is hired for the statue of Paul Levy on the Common, it is important to look at his entire tenure of leadership."