The Unkindest Cuts Of All At SUNY Downstate
August 15, 2012
By Joe Maniscalco
Union workers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn have picketed, protested and lobbied hard against devastating cuts to the institution all summer long, but the day many have dreaded for months arrived this week. Over three hundred staffers have effectively been laid-off – and no one quite knows for sure exactly how many more will follow.
“It is unbelievable that the State of New York would allow so many job losses in a region where the unemployment rate is one of the highest in New York State,” and angry UUP Chapter President Rowena Blackman-Stroud,” told LaborPress.
About 360 UUP members received “non-renewal” notices over the weekend, but the final tally could reach as high a 1,000 workers or more before the bloodletting is finally through.
This latest round of cuts reportedly hit both management and non-management staffers alike, but SUNY Downstate Medical Center officials won’t elaborate on the precise breakdown, saying that the process is “ongoing.”
Workers, elected officials and community leaders have all vociferously denounced the cuts on grounds that they will not only hurt those axed, but also erode quality care and further depress the local economy.
A newly commissioned audit to assess SUNY Downstate’s financial health is underway, and Governor Andrew Cuomo is being pushed to come through with an aid package to save jobs. Nevertheless, hospital administrators have continued their “restructuring” efforts apace – including the hiring of a new president at the cost of an extremely lucrative contract.
SUNY Downstate officials insist that the cuts will not adversely affect quality of care. But those who actually work the hospital floors daily aren’t buying it, and now say they’ll try and rollback whatever layoffs administrators have imposed.
“We are in this fight for the long haul and we will continue to work with our members and the community to try to get non-renewals rescinded in order to preserve vital health care services to the Brooklyn community,” Blackman-Stroud said.
Union members committed to patient care at SUNY Downstate Medical Center have been demonstrating outside the facility – the largest single employer in the borough of Brooklyn – at rallies held throughout the summer. The first wave of layoffs came on July 20. Since then, staffers fearing for their jobs and the community’s health have been grabbing protest signs and hitting the pavement whenever they could – in between shifts, or during scheduled breaks.
Last week’s rally was the largest yet, and drew enthusiastic support from passing motorists honking their horns.
A spokesperson for SUNY Downstate tried to minimize the effect this latest round of staff reductions might have, indicating that they “align with union contracts.”