NEW YORK NURSE: March 2010
by Randi Hoffman
For the past 12 years, there’s been a clause in the NYSNA contract of RNs at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) that secures their jobs if the hospital is sold.
But now that LICH is being sold by its parent corporation Continuum Health Partners to SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Continuum is refusing to honor this clause. The nurses have been without a contract since July and this issue is complicating negotiations.
So on the snowy, dark morning of Feb. 3, more than 200 nurses picketed in front of the facility in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. About 450 NYSNA RNs work at LICH.
There is speculation that SUNY Downstate is calling the shots from behind the scenes. Verbally, Continuum has agreed to the wording, but they haven’t committed to it in writing. The nurses, on the other hand, are committed to helping the hospital function smoothly through this transition, and don’t feel that management is reciprocating.
“We want the employer to continue to honor the contract they signed, with the language that has been in our contract for the past 12 years, from the time Continuum took over LICH,” said Herdley Hill, RN chair of the bargaining unit. “We have been negotiating for months in good faith. If there is any transfer of ownership, Continuum has an obligation to notify the buyer of the responsibilities of the contract, and to retain the workforce.
“We want to see the hospital succeed, regardless of who the new owners are, but the hospital is not providing us any assurance. We would hate to go to arbitration, but we will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes,” added Hill.
In April of 2009, 20 LICH midwives and nurse practitioners voted to join NYSNA. Several of them were on the picket line Feb. 3 with the rest of the bargaining unit. In December of 2008, the New York Department of Health barred LICH from closing the hospital’s obstetric, neonatal, and pediatric units. At the time, NYSNA lobbied hard, joining with elected officials and community leaders to keep these vital community services.