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Union Reaches Agreements With Upstate Hospitals


The New York State Nurses Association is celebrating this week after reaching new contract agreements with hospitals in Utica and Gloversville.

A new four-year contract with St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica was ratified after a year of nurses working without a current contract. NYSNA represents about 500 workers at St. Elizabeth.

A strike and potential lockout that had been scheduled to begin Thursday was avoided at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville. After the nearly 120 workers represented by the union at the Fulton County facility had been working without a contract for almost 3 years, a tentative agreement was reached.

Gabe Kristal is a spokesman for NYSNA...

“We feel it’s been an incredible week for NYSNA and also an incredible week for the patients we represent. Both contracts we negotiated additional patient-care protections as well as provide an environment where there really is a difference for the nurses who work in those hospitals,” said Kristal.

Kristal says NYSNA’s main concern in its negotiations was adequate staffing and scheduling for nurses.

In Utica, the union said workers “overwhelmingly” voted to ratify the new four-year contract. Among the negotiations are an additional five full-time employees to address staffing levels, increases in wages totaling nine percent, and a new health insurance plan for workers.

In a statement Scott Perra, president and CEO of the Mohawk Valley Health System, thanked NYSNA for their efforts in reaching an agreement. He said, “we are very grateful that our hospital can move forward and continue to provide safe, quality patient care for our community.”

In Gloversville, NYSNA nurses at Nathan Littauer had scheduled to strike September 1st. The hospital had threatened to lockout striking workers until the end of the strike, September 6th.

The tentative agreement reached between the two parties withdraws the strike. Both parties reached the agreement through the aid of a federal mediator and a final 25-hour marathon meeting.

In a statement the hospital says although the agreement has yet to be ratified, “we were able to work resourcefully for a common goal benefiting all involved.”

During the tense negotiation period, NYSNA and Nathan Littauer were frequently at odds. Last month, the National Labor Relations Board Office of Appeals directed the NLRB Regional Director in Buffalo to issue an unfair labor practice against the hospital for unlawfully threatening nurses with a retroactive increase in health benefit co-pays.

The hospital filed an Unfair Labor Practice against NYSNA in late July for failure to bargain in good faith.

NYSNA’s Gabe Kristal says charges were dropped as a result of the tentative agreement.

“As a condition of settlement, both parties withdrew any pending action with the NLRB,” said Kristal.

Also in upstate New York, NYSNA and Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown recently reached a tentative five-year contract after a negotiation period of 13 months.

During the last legislative session, the New York State Assembly passed a bill designed to set minimum nursing-to-patient ratios in all New York State hospitals. The bill did not clear the Senate.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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