Community Medical says most nurses’ pay will be solved by next week

Nurses demand to know what wages won’t be included by noon Monday

By: - January 8, 2022 10:56 am

Community Medical Center pictured on January 17, 2021.

An effort to get more than 250 nurses in the Missoula area paid back wages has made progress, but attorneys and leaders representing them say the efforts by Community Medical Center may still leave them short of wages owed. The Montana Nurses Association and the nursing union gave the large healthcare center until Monday at noon to clarify its plan.

On Wednesday, the Montana Nurses Association put CMC chief executive Bob Gomes on notice that nearly a month of not paying 257 nurses what they were owed on their paycheck was illegal, citing Montana law, and demanded the company come up with a plan by noon on Friday to address the issue. The nurses are being represented by attorneys Nate McConnell and Raph Graybill.

The pay shortages were due to a problem with software vendor Kronos, which has been the target of a ransomware attack that has affected many of its customers, including CMC. That’s left many healthcare and government organizations that use the software scrambling to get employees paid. However, CMC originally told nurses that only three payroll clerks were available to solve the problem and a resolution, including paying the missing wages, would likely not happen until Jan. 28 at the soonest.

The Montana Nurses Association announced on Saturday that leaders of Community Medical had pledged to calculate and restore some of the wages by Jan. 14, but told the Montana Nurses Association that other wages could not be calculated.

In response to that, the attorneys have demanded to know what wages the healthcare center, which is owned by a for-profit company, will not be paying by noon on Monday. The nurses are concerned Community Medical will not pay wage differentials to the nurses, which they say often constitute the bulk of pay for them.

“While this is a welcome development, MNA will not accept CMC’s assertions that some categories of compensation are too difficult to compute and will be paid later,” said Montana Nurses Association chief executive Vicky Byrd.

The news of the problem comes on the heels of a holiday season and surging COVID-19 cases. The Montana Nurses Association estimates the average nurse has had at least $1,000 withheld, and some nurses may have been shorted as much as $4,500. The reconciliation Community Medical has agreed to will be paid on Jan.14

Community Medical, for its part, has acknowledged the problem and said it’s dedicating more resources to solving the problem caused by its software vendor.

According to a letter to Community Medical’s attorney in Atlanta, CMC has agreed to calculate and pay all regular hours, overtime, callback, holiday, critical pay, personal time off and several other categories. However, the letter warned that “any unforeseen process glitches resulting in underpayment of wages on January 14 will be seen as continuing noncompliance.”

“CMC…states that the process it has in place ‘will largely make employees ‘whole.’ We have serious concerns with this statement, since it amounts to an acknowledgement that nurses will not be made whole in compliance with the law,” the letter from McConnell and Graybill states.

CMC has said that it will not pay shift differentials, on-call pay, and other wages.

“CMC does not make clear what other pay codes are included in this category of nonpayment,” the letter states. “As you know differential and on-call pay comprise sizable portions of many nurses’ wages.”

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming. With Darrell at the helm, the Gazette staff took Montana’s top newspaper award six times in seven years. Darrell's books include writing the historical chapters of “Billings Memories” Volumes I-III, and “It Happened in Minnesota.” He has taught journalism at Winona State University and Montana State University-Billings, and has served on the student publications board of the University of Wyoming.

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