June 3, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Nurses with the New York State Nurses Association announced at a morning press conference at the Sheraton Hotel that they are prepared to strike if management doesn’t bargain in good faith.
Crain’s New York Business reported last week that the 14 private hospitals, organized under the umbrella organization—the New York Hospital Alliance—offered NYSNA a 10 percent wage increase over a four-year contract during negotiations, but the nurses say that the most important component of the negotiations that the hospitals refuse to address is hiring more nurses to ensure safe staffing levels.
Some of the nurses working at institutions like Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan spoke during the press conference to say that management on the job is intimidating them for speaking up about safe staffing. And they say that management has refused to provide any details about potential replacement nurses should NYSNA strike.
In the accompanying video, we asked Jill Furillo, NYSNA’s executive director, about what would management have to do to avoid a strike.
“I’m not going to go into the details of what our proposals are or what the hospitals are proposing. We’re not going to be negotiating this contract in the press. We’re here to bargain in good faith with the hospitals and our hope is that they bargain in good faith with us, and that we can reach an equitable settlement on the issues before us,” said Furillo.
When we followed up with the question whether hiring more nurses was more important than higher wages in the current contract, Furillo answered unashamedly.
“No question. Absolutely.”
We also interviewed two nurses—Mary Ellen Warden, a nurse at Mount Sinai Roosevelt for 30 years, and Nancy Hagans, a nurse at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. They both agreed that more nurses on the job to ensure safe-staffing levels was more paramount in the current contract.
“I think the nurses are willing to say that our biggest, highest priority is staffing. I think we’ve been experiencing that for several years in many facilities. It means enough to us that we’re willing to put that even ahead of money that’s been put on the table,” said Warden.
“For us, especially at Maimonides in Brooklyn, where there have been other hospital closures, we’ve experienced a doubling of the rate in emergency rooms from 200 patients to 400 patients. But the staffing levels haven’t changed. But how long can we go [without hiring more nurses],” said Hagans.