Contract victory at St. Joseph

St. Joseph Hospital NYSNA Negotiating Committee (l to r): Jenmarie L. Byrnes, RN; Dan Mills, RN; Margaret Perry, RN; Mary Furey, RN; Heather Gabler, RN; Linda Wells, RN; Cynthia Rusielewicz, RN; and Gina Vista, RN.

The 210 NYSNA nurses at St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage won a resounding victory when they reached a new four-year agreement with management. RNs won across-the-board wage increases totaling 11.4%, additional experience steps, and increases in differentials for charge and education. Most importantly, they achieved their top bargaining priority of maintaining health benefits without any additional costs or cuts in services.

“We got a great contract without a single giveback,” said LBU President Jenmarie Byrnes, RN. “This is especially remarkable considering management had put 38 concessionary proposals on the table over the course of negotiations. This was the first time St. Joseph bargained as a full member of Long Island’s Catholic Health Services (CHS), and we weren’t quite sure what to expect.”

CHS had pushed the nurses to agree to switch from their current health benefits provider, the NYSNA health plan, to one run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, which does not provide the same level of benefits.

Ms. Byrnes said, “All along, St. Joseph nurses told the hospital we were open to switching plans so long as the benefits and costs were comparable to what we already had and that the CHS plan was willing to come into full compliance with the law under the Affordable Care Act.”

Break in silence

“After nearly four months of silence from management, we finally heard back — they agreed to continue to contribute to our union’s benefit plan. We met with the hospital’s team a few days later and stayed at the table until we had settled the contract,” Ms. Byrnes reported.

St. Joseph nurses will continue to pursue staffing improvements through an ongoing arbitration to enforce existing contract language and redoubling efforts to pass the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.

Ms. Byrnes attributes the victory and near-unanimous ratification vote to maintaining a unified front. “Throughout the process, NYSNA members at St. Joseph stood together 100 percent.” She added, “Our unity extends beyond St. Joseph to St. Catherine of Siena and St. Charles, our sister CHS hospitals where NYSNA nurses are still fighting for fair contracts. We’re all NYSNA nurses and we all support each other.”

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