NEW YORK, N.Y.—Chanting, “They’re talking staffing cuts—they gotta be nuts,” about 60 workers picketed outside Maimonides
Medical Center in Brooklyn Dec. 12, demanding that the hospital’s management rescind planned layoffs it announced just before Thanksgiving.
Local 1199SEIU, which represents about 2,900 workers at the Borough Park hospital—technical, professional, clerical, and service staff—has gotten the layoffs postponed from Dec. 15 to Jan. 5, union delegate Onika Frazier told the crowd. Maimonides CEO Ken Gibbs has agreed that the hospital would lay off temporary workers and probationary employees before axing permanent workers, she added. About 200 workers, including 117 represented by 1199SEIU, were slated to be dejobitated, according to the union.
“We’re way down on the numbers from where we were, but we still have a long way to go,” 1199SEIU executive vice president Steve Kramer said through a bullhorn. The union, he added, has notified management that it will picket in January “every single week if they lay off one of our members.”
“Maimonides—like hospitals across the region and country—is working through the reality of our industry’s economics: flat or declining government reimbursement rates coupled with rising costs,” hospital vice president for public affairs Eileen Tynion said in a statement. “Because of that trend, and in order to produce a fiscally sound budget for 2018, our workforce of 6,500 will be reduced by up to 200 positions in areas that will have the least impact on clinical care. Of those, no more than 100 positions are 1199SEIU.”
She told LaborPress the reason the layoffs had been delayed was because the commission inspecting the hospital for
reaccreditation had showed up unannounced on Dec. 4, making it impossible for management to meet with 1199SEIU that week “to review the options available to employees affected by the workforce reduction.”
The union charges that the layoffs were conceived with minimal consideration for patient care or union members’ rights. The original layoff list, Frazier said, included 21 recently promoted monitor technicians, who watch the monitors indicating multiple patients’ vital signs.
“They didn’t know what they were doing,” Kramer told the crowd, noting that the hospital had slated ward clerks for layoffs. “You can’t run a floor without a ward clerk.” While union workers are supposed to be protected by seniority, he added, “there were members who started in 2007 on the layoff list.”
“It’s really not fair,” Maureen Piccione, a lab analyst in the hematology department who’s worked at Maimonides for more than 30 years, told LaborPress. “We’re understaffed as is. Instead of four people, they have us work with two people.” Six of the department’s phlebotomists were on the layoff list, she said.
1199SEIU presented management with a 10-point plan to stop the layoffs Dec. 1. The points include an immediate freeze on new
hiring and overtime, asking the city and state for aid, and limiting salaries to a maximum of $150,000 a year for the next six months.
“We need to identify the top-heavy areas of management,” Frazier said. Piccione nods emphatically when asked if she thinks management is top-heavy.
The hospital’s operating-room staff had already been downsized, says Wilson Lassus, who works in pre-op services, preparing patients for surgery and talking to family members. Surgical technicians and supply-department workers were laid off, and “they never replaced them.”
Layoffs create “negativity” in the surrounding community because “you never know what people will do to survive,” Lassus, a Guardian Angels patrol leader, adds. “It affects business. And most important, it affects patient care.”