WMC nurses deserve a fair contract - The Journal News, December 19, 2007
I was pleased to read your Dec. 8 article about the financial health of Westchester Medical Center. While things are better financially, there is another side to its current fiscal situation.
The nurses have been trying to negotiate a fair contract for more than three years. The main obstacle has been the attempt of the medical center to severely cut the health benefits of nurses when they retire. The reason given is that they cannot afford to carry the liability on their profit and loss sheets. The nurses' union has offered to double the years of service required for eligibility, without affecting the benefit. WMC has refused to consider that offer and refused to discuss any other issues at the bargaining table, and has now declared an impasse with the Public Employment Relations Board.
It is the RNs who kept this hospital from closing its doors during the height of the fiscal crisis. They worked many nights of mandatory overtime, they worked short-staffed and without enough supplies. Still, they maintained optimum patient care through their exhaustive efforts.
These highly skilled RNs will begin to leave if these issues are not resolved soon. Many of these nurses have given 20 to 30 years of dedicated service to this hospital and now that the facility is recovering, they deserve a fair contract. Hospital President Mike Israel is quoted, "In the early part of the decade, this facility didn't have the capital to reinvest in itself." There is no more worthwhile investment than the staff that provides direct patient care. It is time to reinvest in the WMC nurses.
Jane Owen, RN
White Plains, NY
(The writer is the NYSNA release time representative of the WCHCC)
Hospital disregards nurses’ experience - Poughkeepsie Journal, January 2, 2008
I am writing to respond to the article that appeared recently (“Westchester hospital seeks OK for upgrades,” Dec. 10).
My, my. Westchester Medical Center is apparently financially fit once again and appears to be taking up an ambitious plan to upgrade its physical plant.
Before anyone pats medical center management on the back, take a minute to recall it reduced its bottom line through years of savage and irresponsible cuts, closings and layoffs that left hundreds of employees out of work and the morale of its work force in shreds. Exorbitant salaries that ranged into the millions continued to be paid to executives and consultants, while decades of valuable direct care-giving experience was purged.
Through our current contract negotiations, nurses have been trying to repair the damage and do some “catching up” of our own. Decent wages and benefits are needed to stabilize the work force. But instead of cooperating with us, management is demanding concessions in our retiree health coverage.
This hurts. It betrays the hardworking employees who built the medical center’s reputation for excellence. And now, many nurses who are starting out may have to work well into their 70s, because under management’s proposals they won’t be able to afford to retire.
How many more good nurses will this community lose before Westchester Medical Center gets the message? Bricks and mortar don’t save lives. People do.
Victoria Arrick, RN
A series of radio spots aired throughout December in support of NYSNA’s contract negotiations at Westchester Medical Center. Television spots to be broadcast in January on News 12 Westchester, will discuss how a fair and effective contract is the best means of ensuring quality patient care. The radio spots aired on WHUD-FM, WXPK-FM, WRWD-FM, and WRNQ-FM in the Hudson Valley. They focused how the RNs’ Staff Development Team was recognized for their excellence by Advance for Nurses magazine, and question why medical center management doesn’t share in this recognition.
The nurses have been trying for the past three years to negotiate a new contract with medical center. But management today still insist on concessions, while refusing to improve the nurses’ stressful working conditions.
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Several issues are still on the table in contract talks between the Nurses Association and the Westchester County Healthcare Corporation (WCHCC). The most recent contract for the 1,300 RNs expired on April 1, 2006.
Issues include staffing, floating, mandatory overtime, health and dental insurance, compensation, and problems with the KRONOS system. NYSNA also believes that management’s demand for reductions in post-retirement health benefits will hamper the center’s efforts to attract nurses and continue its financial recovery.
WCHCC administration has tried to circumvent the collective bargaining process by dealing directly with the STAT flight team. In response, NYSNA has filed an improper practice charge. Management has also sent several letters to staff with misleading information. On Sept. 6, NYSNA filed a lawsuit against Westchester County for canceling a bus advertisement it planned to run, asserting it was a deliberate attempt to silence the nurses.
The association is asking the American Nurses Credentialing Center to deny the medical center’s application for Magnet Recognition because of its continued lack of cooperation in negotiations, and in responding to nurses’ concerns. NYSNA is asking Nursing Spectrum to stop running the medical center’s most-recent recruitment advertisement, which distorts the truth about the status of the nurses' contract talks.
Nurses are making their opinions known at corporation board meetings and monthly forums at the medical center. They are sending letters to their county legislators, WCHCC management, and the corporations’ board of trustees, and are wearing red scrubs with the NYSNA logo on Wednesdays to show their solidarity.
The Nurses Association believes the medical center’s recent filing for impasse is harmful to the medical center’s ability to recruit. NYSNA will continue to seek legal action and communicate with the County Board of Legislators and the media. WCHCC members with questions or concerns should contact their NYSNA representatives.
With more than 34,000 members, NYSNA is the oldest and largest state nurses’ association in the nation. It is an influential union for RNs, representing nurses in New York and New Jersey. Offering a wide range of services to its members, NYSNA fosters high standards of nursing education and practice and works to advance the profession through legislative activity. It is a constituent of the American Nurses Association and of the United American Nurses, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.