UAN Nurses on STRIKE in NY
RNs STRIKE at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center Strike
Smithtown, Long Island, NY -
Registered nurses of St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center (NY) filed notice on November 15 that they would strike at 7 a.m., Monday, November 26. The hospital did not come to an agreement with the RNs in the face of the 10 day strike countdown and so, at 7am, another RN strike for patient/nurse staffing, patient/nurse safety, and nurse recruitment, retention, and compensation began. Scabs have been brought in to staff the hospital which now has the best staffing it has ever had.
The staff nurses striking at St Catherines of Siena Medical Center in Smithown, Long Island are represented by the 34,000-member New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) - a constituent member of the American Nurses Association (ANA) and founding member of the United American Nurses (UAN) - the labor arm of the ANA and affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
Issues - at a glance:
1. On November 19, a four-hour negotiation session was scheduled. With parties in attendance across the table from each other for just five minutes, no progress was recorded......
2. Union leaders scheduled an afternoon rally for Sunday, November 25....
3. Federal mediators scheduled a negotiation session for Sunday evening, November 25.......
4. NYSNA represents 474 registered nurses at the center. Their most recent three-year contract expired May 15. Negotiations have been underway since April. They held a session of informational picketing on Oct. 19 to protest the hospital's lack of concern about improving working conditions.......
5. The nurses, through contract negotiations, have attempted to solve the many problems with workplace conditions that have driven many veteran RNs to leave the facility, and discouraged new RNs from applying.
* STAFFING - In June 1998, the hospital, then known as St. John's Episcopal, was cited by the state Health Department for numerous violations - including low RN staffing - after the death of a patient. After this incident, NYSNA fought to establish, and won, a set of unit-by-unit, shift-by-shift, RN-to-patient staffing guidelines that would ensure a safe staffing level......
Within a year, because of complex administrative problems, St. John's faced bankruptcy. Catholic Health System of Long Island offered to buy the facility, but demanded the nurses surrender their staffing guidelines, threatening to close the hospital if they refused.......
In the interests of their patients and the community, the nurses reluctantly agreed to give up the guidelines at that time but fully expected to re-visit the issue when that contract expired last May......
Hospital officials promised that they would do their best to maintain a safe staffing level. But staffing remains a problem, and is why the nurses voted Nov. 13 and 14 to strike........
Although the hospital is willing to consider reinstating a form of staffing guideline, it is not willing to enable nurses to enforce them through third-party arbitration. Such enforcement is a must if the nurses are to have the legal means to hold the hospital accountable........
* MANDATORY OVERTIME - A problem that is an outgrowth of short staffing, mandatory overtime fills vacant shifts when there are not enough RNs on staff. Typically, a nursing supervisor orders a nurse to work the next shift, or leaves the nurse with no choice but to "volunteer." Not only is this disruptive to the nurse's life, should the nurse have children in daycare, etc., but working an additional eight-hour shift is exhausting and dangerous
for patient care.......
The nurses want a provision stating the hospital will not require overtime except in an emergency. The hospital prefers to use such overtime as a regular staffing tool to fill vacancies rather than make the improvements that would attract nurses to come work at that facility or to retain nurses who do work at that facility.......
* HEALTH BENEFITS - As a means of encouraging veteran nurses to stay at St. Catherine's, NYSNA is seeking to improve their health benefits plan. NYSNA is offering a plan that would be more financially stable and offer far better benefits than the hospital's current self insured plan. The NYSNA plan would also offer the nurses the option of retirement health insurance, which is not available through the hospital. Although the plan is
competitively priced, the hospital has inflated the figures to say it is too expensive.......
* 12-HOUR SHIFTS - Currently many RNs in specialty units are working "flextime" - a schedule of three days of 12-hour shifts. Not only does this schedule provide for greater continuity of patient care, it is attractive tool for recruiting nurses. The hospital is seeking the sole right to discontinue flextime, with eight weeks notice, whenever it feels its nursing shortage has been corrected, leaving the nurses with no say or control in their workday lives. This would disrupt many facets of the nurse's life and would lead to even more resignations.......
* REFUSAL TO WORK OVERTIME - St. Catherine's RNs were the first in the nation to officially refuse to volunteer for overtime last month. Under a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, a union can call for such a concerted action if it serves a 10-day notice. Nurses Are Exercising Their Rights.......
6. This is a time when our nation is recognizing the crucial role of all who serve the public, especially in health care. It is now more important than ever that our health care system be able to respond to emergencies and provide the necessary care. Yet the Medical Center continues to ignore nurses' concerns about safe staffing.
7. In the United States, when employees believe their concerns are not being addressed they have a legally protected right to take action. The RNs in Smithtown, Long Island will remain on strike for as long as it takes.
NYSNA | Current Collective Bargaining | St. Catherine of Siena Strike Countdown
Contact Information | Press Releases
NYSNA/UAN Registered Nurses Strike on Long Island
Smithtown, LI, NY - November 27, 2001
Nurses at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown went on strike yesterday, frustrated over being forced to work mandatory overtime and in seeking a new health plan.
Some of the same issues now on the table almost doomed the sale of the hospital (then St. John's Episcopal Hospital) in February 2000, when nurses initially rejected and then grudgingly approved a contract that Catholic Health Services demanded before it would complete its deal to buy the struggling hospital and keep it open.
"They asked us back then to give them a year," said Barbara Crane, a registered nurse at the hospital and president of the hospital's New York State Nurses Association unit, breaking into tears. "We gave them a year and a half, and this is where we end up? "
The registered nurses, about 475 full-time and part-time nurses, represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) had voted overwhelmingly to strike, and a bargaining session Sunday night failed to produce a last-minute agreement. The nurses have been working without a contract since May.
Hospital officials said yesterday they had brought in more than 100 replacement nurses to staff the hospital and that no cutbacks in service are planned. Hospital president and chief executive Jim Wilson said the hospital had as many nurses working as would be normally needed to take care of the 200 patients staying there.
"It's important for the community to know we are here and we are fully operational and we will continue to take care of their needs," he said.
Both sides cite two areas as major sticking points in negotiations: the nurses' desire to leave the hospital's health plan for a New York State Nurses Association plan and their concern with mandatory overtime.
As nurses walked the picket line yesterday, they expressed concern of routinely being told they would have to work extra hours after they finished eight- to 12-hour shifts to help fill holes in the schedule.
"They're using it as a regular scheduling tool," said Dan Chamberlain, a long-time operating room nurse at the hospital and a member of the union negotiating team. "These floor nurses are getting killed."
While Wilson acknowledged that the hospital does sometimes require mandatory overtime, he said that it accounts for no more than 4 percent of staffing over a typical two-week period.
The problem, he said, is a national nursing shortage. "Recruiting registered nurses has become very, very difficult for every health care provider in the country," he said.
CHS has hired 109 new nurses since taking over the hospital, but union representatives note that it has also lost more than 70 nurses since then. "What they don't understand is what it takes to keep a nurse," Crane said.
Wilson said nurses left for a variety of reasons, including retirement and relocation. "It's not an excessive number given what's going on in the industry," he said.
Wilson also said the overriding issue in the negotiations has been the nurses' wish to join a union-sponsored health plan.
That plan would cost the hospital some $500,000 more annually he said.
Crane said the nurses want to switch because the hospital has changed its benefit package several times and because the union plan may soon offer benefits that continue through retirement.
It's not clear when the sides will meet again; no bargaining sessions are scheduled at this time.
The nurses pledged to stay out as long as necessary.
A bargaining session last night failed to produce any agreement between the two sides, which have been negotiating a new contract since March. The nurses, who number about 475, have been working without a contract since last May.
"We're going to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes", said Michael Chacon, the hospitals nursing representative from the New York State Nurses Association.
About 300 nurses gathered yesterday morning in front of the hospital, which was bought in 1999 by Catholic Health Services. At that time, the nurses grudgingly approved a contract so that the deal could go through, with hopes of addressing issues such as understaffing when the contract expired in May.
The nurses struck shortly after 7 a.m., hospital spokesperson Pat Stickle said this morning.
Replacement nurses have been hired to take their place.
Newsday.com - Strike at Smithtown Hospital >>>>>>
-recv'd this from a nurse involved in the strike on Long Island:
<<< Well, by now you have seen all the media coverage every major TV station covered this issue. Amazing coverage.
Thanks to those that spoke for us.
Tomorrow we are having a special TV channel 2 (CBS) media representative at 10 am. I would appreciate your attendance at that time. Also there is going to be a meeting at the Knights of Columbus at the junction of 347 and 454 (Vets highway) 6pm tomorrow night Tuesday.
Another person I admire and respect sent me an email today regarding whether or not this is a democratic society. She felt that her opinion and the others like her who voted not to strike was disregarded by the majority and she was pulled along by the tide.
My understanding of a democracy is just that, based on a majority, not by way of disregarding the individuals rights, but it is the expression of the majority of us that stems the tide of our way of life. This friend has lived through a strike and feels we left the "Patient" out in our equation.
I had hoped we made it clear to all -
THIS STRIKE IS FOR THE PROFESSION OF NURSING.
Make a stand now or face extinction.
In answer to her real concern about the patients welfare, we too were worried about what is happening to them (was that not the main topic of conversation on the line)? Today we all heard that for every four nurses that left the floor at 7am at least 6 came on duty. These scabs are not stupid, they won't work the way we do. They are being treated the way we wish we were.
It is our strong belief if we don't make workplace improvements to make our profession a viable choice for the young amongst us, the patient really will be in serious peril because there won't even be scabs to care for them.
Before I end for tonight, I want you all to know that Nancy Maggio, RN PerDiem Educator refused to cross the picket line today and has probably put her job in jeopardy as a result of her supporting us. Thank you Nancy I hope we don't lose you.
Good night, I am beat.
The Registered Nurses on strike at
St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center
in Smithtown, Long Island, NY
will be featured on CBS
The Early Show
Thursday, November 29 at 7:48 a.m. (Eastern time)