Nurses at Northside OK strike notification

By William K. Alcorn


Northside Medical Center nurses, upset about the lack of progress in contract talks with ValleyCare Health System of Ohio, have authorized the union negotiating team to give a 10-day strike notice to the hospital system.

Staffing levels and wages are the primary issues, Eric Williams, president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, said after the first of three mass membership meetings Thursday at Teamsters Local 377’s hall on Teamster Drive.

Williams would not give the vote count.

“We hope that this will refocus so the parties can reach an agreement,” he said.

There has been insignificant progress in negotiations, and there is much unity and unhappiness among members, Williams said.

Talks on Tuesday and those scheduled for Wednesday are under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

The YGDNA represents about 400 registered nurses at ValleyCare Northside Medical Center on Gypsy Lane. Their work agreement expires Thursday.

Likewise, the results of talks between ValleyCare and about 25 registered nurses at its Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland were described as “disappointing” by Atty. Cathleen Slater of the Ohio Nurses Association.

Staff retention and recruiting issues important to the nurses are being disregarded and not taken seriously; there is no nurse on the other side of the table, as is typical, Slater contended.

The contract between the ONA Hillside Unit and ValleyCare also expires Thursday.

The lack of a nurse on the ValleyCare negotiating team who understands nursing issues also concerns Williams.

The YGDNA has proposed a financial package that will enable ValleyCare Northside to retain and recruit quality nurses, he said.

However, he said ValleyCare has responded with a proposal to send nurses home four days within four shifts in two-week pay periods. For full-time nurses, that could be up to a 50 percent cut in pay; for some part-time nurses it could result in no pay because they wouldn’t work at all.

In addition, Williams said, is the potential for increased costs for nurses’ health care.

The YGDNA says its members have not had a pay raise since 2006 and gave millions of dollars in concessions, such as a freeze on longevity increases, personal days and holidays to the financially struggling Forum Health that the new owner does not need, Williams said.

“This company is doing well,” he said of ValleyCare.

“We’re committed to keeping Northside open and providing the best possible care. To do that, ValleyCare has to provide a wage and benefits package that enables it to retain and recruit the best nurses,” he said.

The last time the nurses went on strike was in 2001 when Forum Health operated the hospital.

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