NEW YORK NURSE: July/August 2008
by Mark Genovese
After months of unproductive contract talks, nurses at Oneida Healthcare Center thought it was time for a public protest.
More than 150 RNs and supporters took part in informational picketing on a hot July afternoon to fight administration’s demand that they give up defined-benefit pension coverage for new hires. The RNs were concerned that this would be the first step toward phasing out the plan entirely.
The nurses were still upset over remarks made three weeks earlier by a member of the hospital’s board of directors, who coldly told the nurses: “Defined benefit pensions are a thing of the past. You just need to get over it.”
This offhand remark gave the nurses stunning insight into the attitude of the center’s decision makers and only fueled RNs to step up their efforts, including extensive advertising in local media.
“The nurses are trying to find a middle ground during negotiations, but administration isn’t,” said Bill Conley, NYSNA labor representative. “Although the center can find millions of dollars for cosmetic building renovations, it refuses to spend a cent on improving working conditions for its registered nurses.”
“We work hard for you, your families, our community,” wrote one Oneida RN in an eloquent letter to the local newspaper. “We deserve to be treated fairly by the administration.”