NEW YORK NURSE: March/April 2012
by Mark Genovese
NYSNA members at Westchester Medical Center took their fight for a fair contract to the county’s elected officials.
More than 100 RNs from the Valhalla facility, along with another 150 supporters from the community, crowded into a meeting of the County Board of Legislators Community Services Committee on March 29 to talk about management’s refusal to address nurses’ concerns about staffing, patient safety, and the ability to maintain a stable nursing workforce.
Twelve of the nurses discussed in detail the 908 protests of assignment filed by the RNs since the start of this year — a record this facility should not be proud of.
Many examples came from the Behavioral Health Center, which on March 5 outsourced the work of CSEA members to a private company, Liberty Healthcare. Protests filed within the three-week period cited “an overwhelming lack of training, experience, and orientation of Liberty staff”; “no planned knowledgeable staffing process in place”; and “RNs are not consulted by Liberty as to the complement of staff needed for the shift.”
Reports also said that RNs were not able to perform their duties optimally because they are attending to basics — such as feeding and bathing patients or answering phones.
The RNs are engaged in a community outreach campaign collecting signatures from concerned citizens, handing out leaflets to the public, running advertisements in local media, meeting with elected public officials (see accompanying article), and making several attempts to meet with the medical center’s board of directors.
Contract talks, meanwhile, remain at impasse. The nurses’ negotiating committee has tried repeatedly during the past year to reach a reasonable settlement, but medical center management continues to display a lack of respect for registered nurses and the vital role they play in the public health system. Instead, it continues to demand givebacks.
The most recent five-year contract for the 1,400 RNs expired on March 31, 2011. NYSNA members had offered in negotiations a counter proposal with givebacks totaling nearly $9 million – including changes in healthcare co-pays and zero wage increases to prevent 250 layoffs. But medical center management didn’t accept it and went ahead with the layoffs.