NEW YORK NURSE: October 2011
by Mark Genovese
NYSNA members at Benedictine Hospital received support from the City of Kingston’s Common Council in their ongoing contract dispute with hospital management.
Passed during the council’s session on Oct. 4, a resolution supports the right of the nurses to be union members and to seek better working conditions.
“Benedictine registered nurses have a fundamental interest in a working environment which supports the recruitment and retention of highly qualified colleagues resulting in quality patient care,” the council resolution said. “Benedictine registered nurses believe a fair and reasonable contract will improve morale and provide a foundation for the development of a healthy labor/management relationship in the workplace.”
The 180 Benedictine Hospital RNs voted to have NYSNA represent them for collective bargaining in November 2008. Their efforts to negotiate a first contract since early 2009 have been met with considerable opposition from hospital management during 57 face-to face bargaining sessions.
Since the merger of Benedictine and Kingston hospitals in 2009, Benedictine RNs have been paid lower salaries than similarly qualified colleagues at Kingston Hospital – and as much as $10 to $14 per hour lower than nurses across the river at Vassar who NYSNA represents. The most recent management offer on wages would almost match Kingston Hospital RN salaries, but would not provide retroactive pay.
“There’s no current attempt on the part of management to relieve the pay inequity that has existed since the merger, as part of a complete contract,” said Benedictine RN Sue Kehoe. “The hospital has proposed wage reopeners in November 2011 and November 2012 that could also threaten to reduce wages.”
NYSNA has offered to bring the employer’s last economic offer back to the nurses to vote on, but only if it included a confirmation of their basic union rights. The employer refused. To date, management continues to deny access to the hospital for the nurses’ union representatives.
“Benedictine registered nurses by their exemplary practice and commitment to patients play a key and valued role in the health and welfare of our community,” the council resolution added. “We strongly urge a speedy conclusion to contract negotiations in order to support continued access to quality medical care for members of our community.”