From: News and Views | City Beat |
Wednesday, October 10, 2001
Health Care Labor Truce
NY Daily News
With Gov. Pataki looking on, NYC health-care labor and management representatives announced yesterday they were extending soon-to-expire contracts while the city recovers from the World Trade Center disaster.
"We saw that it was not the right time for collective bargaining," said SEIU Local 1199 President Dennis Rivera. "What we should be doing is taking care of the needs and concerns of our patients."
The contracts, which Rivera said cover 70,000 SEIU workers at 67 area League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes institutions, were set to expire Oct. 31 but will now be extended until March 31, 2002.
Any changes made in negotiations are to be retroactive to Nov. 1, 2001.
Pataki called the move an "incredible act of patriotism," praising the health care community's response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Today you are sending another extraordinary message to America," the governor told union and hospital representatives assembled at the Crowne Royal Hotel in Times Square. While the tone was patriotic and support for the governor nearly unanimous, tensions between labor and management were far from dissolved.
When League president Bruce McIver declared, "It's no secret that the hospital community is in difficult financial shape," he was met with jeers and laughs from union delegates.
"In our very first meeting in May the League told us flat out that they had no money," said a skeptical Dorothy Benson, 52, a unit receptionist at St. Luke's Hospital in Manhattan. "People in corporate positions aren't taking any pay cuts. There's money somewhere. It's just a question of where it's going."
Benson said that while she thought it unlikely that negotiations will be any easier as a result of the terrorist attacks, putting them off was the right move, ethically and politically.
"I knew right away there would be no new contract," Benson said. "What's there to negotiate? People are dying."
Ira Warm, chief of human resources at St. Vincent's Medical Center, expressed matching sentiments from the management side.
"I think this is the right thing for the city," Warm said.