THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN
The mandatory overtime issue hasn't gone away, the president of the nurses union says.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Even though the two sides in the Forum Health strike aren't negotiating, the war of words continues in the 70-day-old nurses strike.
"Now that patient care issues, including mandatory overtime, have been substantially addressed at the bargaining table, the impasse is focused primarily on economics," Forum Health said in a Monday news release.
However, Bonnie Lambert, president of the striking Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, said the mandatory overtime issue still isn't resolved.
Forum's proposal calls for retaining mandatory overtime for a 30-month transition period, Lambert said during a press conference Monday afternoon at the nurses strike headquarters.
"We know that there has to be some sort of a transition, but we're not going to give them the 30 months. They'll abuse it," Lambert said.
What's happened: Some 766 registered nurses have been on strike against Forum Health Northside Medical Center, Tod Children's Hospital and Beeghly Medical Park since May 1. Lambert said she hopes a federal mediator will call both sides back to the bargaining table this week.
In a news release issued by Evonne M. Woloshyn, senior vice president for marketing and community relations, Forum said the striking nurses seek a 15-percent increase in wages, benefits and pensions in the first year of a proposed new contract, and that Forum is offering more than a 15 percent increase over three years.
The union's request "would force Forum Health to significantly increase health-care costs for residents in this community,'' Forum said.
What union says: "The hospital is putting profits over patients and our community values in an attempt to break our union," Lambert said.
She estimated Forum has spent between $5.5 million and $9.5 million on wages alone for some 250 strike replacement nurses provided by U.S. Nursing Corp. of Denver, not including housing, food, transportation and security costs.
If Forum Health decides to close Northside and Tod because of the strike, as Mayor George McKelvey has suggested it might, such a closing would be the result of poor management, Lambert said.
"They had every opportunity to settle this strike before we walked out the door. They could have spent far less money in giving us the no-mandatory overtime and the economic package that we had on the table," Lambert said.
McKelvey has suggested having U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, D-17th, mediate the dispute, but Lambert said she doesn't believe third-party intervention is necessary.
If the union doesn't return to the bargaining table this week with a revised economic proposal, "Forum Health will welcome a third-party intervention on economic issues," Forum's news release said. It doesn't mention the name of Traficant or any other potential mediator.