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Northside Medical Center Responds to Strike Threat
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – ValleyCare Health System of Ohio responded moments ago to the threat of a strike by nurses at Northside Medical Center with a lengthy statement setting forth management's positions on the issues under negotiation.
Thursday night members of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association voted to authorize union negotiations to issue Northside Medical Center a 10-day strike notice.
ValleyCare is the Mahoning Valley-based unit of Community Health Systems, a for-profit company based in tennesee that operates 135 hospitals in 29 states.
Here is the text of ValleyCare’s statement. Editor's note: Bold sub-headlines were contained in the statement.
Northside Medical Center is very disappointed to learn that the Ohio Nurses Association is contemplating a strike against our hospital when negotiations are continuing with a federal mediator. Bargaining sessions are scheduled next week.
We hope the union will not ask its members to abandon their patients and engage in a costly and disruptive strike against the hospital. That would not be in the best interest of our hospital, the patients who count on us, our community or our employees.
It is our sincere desire that a mutually acceptable agreement can be reached with the union, but regardless of the outcome of these negotiations, our hospital remains committed to providing quality care for our patients and our community.
It is generally the hospital’s position to keep information about our negotiations over union contracts at the bargaining table. But because the Ohio Nurses Association has engaged in a very public campaign, we are compelled to provide important facts about our negotiations.
Key Facts Regarding Northside Medical Center and Negotiations with the Ohio Nurses Association
Northside Medical Center was purchased just nearly two years ago out of the Bankruptcy Court, and since that time, our new ownership has honored its commitment to the Court, to the community and to all of our staff.
The Ohio Nurses Association has made repeated statements indicating that Registered Nurses at Northside have not received a wage increase in six years. What the union has not been forthcoming about is the fact that the wage freeze is the result of actions taken by the union.
- First, the union agreed to a wage freeze in a contract with prior management.
- The contract was accepted at the time of the acquisition with the union’s authorization and consent.
- Before the contract was set to expire in July 2011, the union asked the hospital to extend the agreement for one year. It was the union’s proposal that there would be no wage increases during the extension year and the hospital agreed to that proposal.
The union also fails to acknowledge that every employee across Northside received a significant bonus payment at the time of the acquisition.
- Upon employment by the new owner, our full‐time employees, including our RNs, were paid $4000 each; part‐time nurses and other employees were paid $2000 each.
- The total cost of this bonus payment to employees at Northside was $5.4 million.
The union opened bargaining with a list of over 25 stunning demands that include a 12.0% wage increase this year, and additional 5.0% wage increases next year and the year after. The union’s demands also include Early Retirement Medical Benefits, a nearly 600% increase in various differentials. The cost of these demands is many millions of dollars, but the union has refused to budge from its demands. Aside from a 0.5% reduction in wage demands for years 2 and 3, there has been no modification to the union’s list of demands.
The hospital has made a proposal for wage increases to our nurses for each of the next three years and has clearly communicated to the union’s negotiating team that these are initial proposals.
REGARDING STAFFING LEVELS
All hospitals in America must strive to staff to the number – and needs – of the patients in their care. That’s the same thing that any organization, no matter its service or mission, would do. Other organizations are not forced by a union to overstaff their businesses.
Just like other operations that have peak times and slow times, hospitals need to have the ability to staff up or down, depending on how many patients are in their care at any given time.
Our proposal allows for a limited number of times when we can call off – or send home – nurses who are not needed for a particular shift. This is very standard in union contracts, including contracts between the ONA and other Ohio hospitals. There is nothing unique or extreme in our proposal.
Just because a hospital has the “ability” to reduce the workforce on a particular shift does not mean that nurses will be sent home. But, hospitals should have the flexibility to make that decision when they need to.
Hospitals should also have the ability to staff up and to bring nurses in to work on overtime and for extra shifts when they are needed for patient care. Our current contract makes it very onerous to staff up because the contract with the ONA dictates which nurses ‐‐and in what order ‐‐nurses can be scheduled for an extra shift.
All we are seeking is the ability to adjust staffing – up or down – to mirror patient needs. The ONA’s claims that salaries will be drastically cut as a result of call‐offs is purposefully, an incendiary reaction. The only reason this would happen is if our patient volume was
dramatically reduced. That is not our goal. Our goal is to provide quality care for our community. If we do our job well, we’ll need nurses to work more hours, not fewer hours.
Our proposal for health insurance and retirement savings is competitive for our marketplace and consistent with what other employers provide.
For health insurance, the hospital pays between 70% and 90% of the employee’s health insurance premium, depending on the coverage selected by the employee. In our most popular plan, employees would pay $25 as co‐pay for a doctor’s visit. That is competitive with most U.S. health plans.
And, the 401(k) retirement plan includes an employer match of 100% up to three percent of the employee’s annual pay.
OUR COMMITMENT TO PROVIDE QUALITY CARE
The issue that matters most of all is the quality of care provided for our patients. That is always going to be our first priority. Our employees are trusted partners in the delivery of quality care. We need them. We appreciate them. And, we genuinely want our employees to feel respected and valued. We will continue to strive to provide a rewarding work environment, competitive wages and benefits, and the tools our employees need to deliver great care.
SOURCE: Northside Medical System
Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.