THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN
A union leader said the memory of a long nurses' strike in Youngstown helped speed talks along.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
WARREN -- Registered nurses at Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year labor contract.
Tom Connelly, union president, said about 80 percent of the membership of the United Nurses of America voted on the contract Wednesday, and more than 90 percent of the votes were in its favor. The vote was conducted at the hospital in three meetings.
"We, as nurses, are very, very pleased. We feel that the hospital came to the bargaining table in good faith, and we hammered out some very good solutions to some very tough problems," Connelly said. "We truly believe that Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital is not only the greatest place for patients to come but also for nurses to work," he added.
"This particular contract positions Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital to maintain a competitive position in the marketplace in times of a very severe labor shortage. It also, of course, allows our nurses to be fairly and equitably compensated," said Paul Carlson, Forum Health senior vice president for human resources and education.
Labor union: United Nurses of America, an arm of Local 2026 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, represents 450 registered nurses at TMH. The new agreement takes effect Oct. 1 when the union's current, three-year contract expires.
Connelly said the pact will eventually give TMH nurses parity with their counterparts at Northside Medical Center and Tod Children's Hospital, two other Forum Health facilities based in Youngstown.
Past strikes: Connelly said the memory of a recent, 81-day strike by Forum's Youngstown nurses helped to speed the progress of talks. Forum began negotiating with UNA in July, just four days after the 771-member Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association ratified an agreement.
UNA also had its own 12-day strike in 1998 before ratifying its agreement.
Mandatory overtime, which became the key issue in the Youngstown nurses' walkout, was not a serious a problem for the TMH nurses because their last agreement set some limits on the practice, Connelly said.
The new contract requires the hospital to reduce its use of forced overtime further, while allowing managers to use agency nurses provided by a temporary employment firm.
Managers must specify the reason agency nurses are needed, the number needed, the work assignment they will be assigned and how long they'll be working each assignment.