Via Christi pay changes decrease overall pay for some

02/01/2014 1:18 PM

08/08/2014 10:21 AM

Via Christi employees statewide were informed this week that they will receive base pay raises, but some will take home less overall as the health system adjusts the way it pays those who work night and weekend shifts.

Differential pay for hospital staff that work night and weekend shifts is typically used as an incentive.

Judy Espinoza, chief human resources officer for Via Christi Health, said the changes do not eliminate differential pay, but rather standardize it across the system.

Some employees were getting differential pay as a percentage of their base pay, but now it will be a flat rate.

Before, for example, some staff would earn an additional 15 to 25 percent of their base pay per hour if they worked night or weekend shifts. Now they will earn a flat rate that is geared to their pay grade and the kind of job they hold.

“In some ministries, we were already doing a flat rate, and in some ministries we were doing a percentage of pay. What we said is, we’re going to go to a flat rate across Via Christi for differential pay and it is tied to your pay range.”

All employees who have been with the system since September will receive a base pay increase, she said.

Espinoza said the increases in pay totaled about $14 million and the change in differential pay totaled about $5 million, so the system was investing a total of $9 million into the workforce.

A Via Christi nurse who did not wish to be named was concerned that more experienced nurses will opt to only work weekday shifts now since they won’t receive as much incentive pay for working nights and weekends.

Espinoza said she couldn’t provide a number or percent of employees who will see a decrease in overall pay, but she said about half of Via Christi’s 10,000-person workforce is impacted by the differential changes.

“Some of these pay practices are longstanding pay practices that we’ve had for a long time ... and when you make a change that impacts people, it’s very personal,” Espinoza said.

The changes also standardize what times qualify a person for differential pay: between 3 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. Friday to 11 p.m. Sunday on the weekends, Espinoza said. Before, those hours varied at the different hospitals and clinics.

The health system had individual meetings with employees to discuss the changes, she said.

In 2013, Via Christi did not have across-the-board wage increases. The health system also laid off roughly 250 people systemwide last spring.

Via Christi executives were not affected by the recent changes, Espinoza said, but they were affected by a pay decrease of between 3 percent and 5 percent, as of July 1.

In April, Via Christi was acquired by Ascension Health, the largest nonprofit and largest Catholic health care system in the country. The decision to change the pay structure was made on the local level, Espinoza said.

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