Nurses will receive pay raises of 4 percent a year.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- Forum Health nurses are returning to work with an agreement that they say will end mandatory overtime in 18 months.
Members of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association voted nearly unanimously Friday to end their 81-day strike against the company that operates Northside Medical Park, Tod Children's Hospital and Beeghly Medical Park. About 600 votes were cast. The union's negotiating team was unanimous in recommending ratification
The three-year contract also includes annual 4 percent raises.
"I'm glad to be coming home again," said emergency room nurse Leann Minotti of Girard after voting for the contract. "I miss the people I work with. I miss the ER doctors. I even miss the regulars that come in a lot."
Loud cheering rang out from the Teamsters Local 377 hall where members voted. Outside, Claudine Carlton of Youngstown smiled broadly and summed up the celebratory mood of most of the nurses.
"I'm going shopping," she said.
Mandatory OT: The key issue in the strike was mandatory overtime. Nurses had rejected a Forum offer recently that would end mandatory overtime in 30 months, but union negotiators accepted a proposal Thursday that eliminates forced overtime in 18 months.
Nurses said they were satisfied swapping two months of pay for an end to mandatory overtime.
"It was worth it," said Mary Walla of Canfield.
For the next 18 months, mandatory overtime can be used only after all other staffing methods are exhausted, including offering voluntary shifts with bonus pay, calling out other nurses and using per diem and agency nurses.
The voluntary bonus shifts will pay $4 an hour above the regular pay rate on weekdays and $8 an hour on weekends. Anyone forced to work overtime will be paid double time.
Returning to work: Bonnie Lambert, union president, said Forum will need about a week to get all of the nearly 800 nurses back to work. Forum will be contacting nurses and holding orientation classes, she said.
"Forum Health, here we come. Community, we're back. We love you all," Lambert said as she announced the ratification.
Lambert said she did not expect any problems between union members and managers.
"Our nurses are professional and are good people. I don't think they'll hold any grudges," she said.
A Forum spokeswoman could not be reached.
Glad to go back: Whether they had worked elsewhere during the strike or not, nurses said they are glad to be returning to Forum.
Minotti said she has been working at Cleveland hospitals for a nursing agency so she is looking forward to working closer to home.
Walla said she enjoyed her time off but is ready to go back to work. Her family had health insurance because her husband works in maintenance at Forum. She said she had saved up some money in case there was a strike so she was able to enjoy spending time with her son and parents.
Although Forum sought to have the nurses begin making contributions toward their health care premiums, the nurses successfully resisted that suggestion, said Linda Warino, a member of the nurses negotiating team.
For the first time ever, Forum will be matching the nurses 401K retirement plan contributions, she said.
"Not only does it make our workplace better for us and the community, but we believe it's a giant step. It's the first step toward improving the nursing profession to entice young people to join us," Warino said of the new contract.