Northside lockout of nurses nears end, no talks scheduled

By William K. Alcorn


The lockout of registered nurses from ValleyCare Northside Medical Center, the aftermath of a one-day nurses strike Tuesday, is winding down — but nothing is settled.

The vast majority of the 485 nurses, represented by the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, are back on their regularly scheduled shifts today, and more will return to their jobs over the weekend and Monday, said Joyce Shaffer, YGDNA first vice president.

The 72-hour commitment the hospital said it had made to the replacement nurses ended Thursday night or this morning, union officials believe.

The 72-hour engagements of the temporary workers will be concluding soon, said Trish Hrina, ValleyCare’s vice president of marketing and public relations.

“As our nursing team members are returning to their scheduled, assigned duties, we’re pleased that all of these transitions have been smooth, taking place without interruption to quality patient care,” she said.

With regard to union leadership monitoring at the hospital, the expired YGDNA/Ohio Nurses Association contract includes a process permitting union visitation once a week for monitoring. Although the ONA contract has expired, the hospital has nevertheless designated this Saturday as the most convenient day this week to minimize any disruption to operations, Hrina said.

While the strike did not result in the resumption of contract talks, Eric Williams, YGDNA president, said it did help get the nurses’ issues before the public.

People have a more acute awareness about the nurses’ issues: continuing a high standard of patient safety by giving nurses a contract with specific language that gives them the right to advocate for patients; and that the hospital’s final contract offer does not mirror those approved by other ValleyCare Ohio Health Systems.

“We don’t know the reasons, but they (the contracts) are certainly different,” Williams said.

ValleyCare Northside, however, has a different view.

“Despite the union’s claims otherwise, absolutely nothing in our final offer would inhibit a nurse’s ability to execute the professional responsibility to his or her patients. In fact, the hospital encourages and facilitates the participation of our nurses in daily safety meetings that take place in each department, as well as hospital committees focused on quality, staffing and safety,” said Hrina.

Shaffer said that while the 24-hour strike and lock-out are finished, the way the hospital treated its nurses united the membership.

The nurses are angry about the hospital paying more money to out-of-town replacement nurses than it does to nurses who live here, shop here and send their kids to school here, a union official said.

The replacement nurses were paid $55 per hour for straight time and $82.50 per hour on overtime, plus housing and paid travel, the union said. Northside nurses, who have been without a contract since July 2012 and haven’t had an across-the-board wage increase in eight years, start at $23.94 an hour. The top wage is $29.88, the YGDNA reported.

“We have renewed energy and the momentum to do whatever we need to do, to get back to the table and get a fair contract,” Shaffer said.

The YGDNA membership has planned a rally for 6:30 a.m. Monday in front of the hospital on Gypsy Lane to support the nurses returning to work at 7 a.m., Williams said.

Also, the union has scheduled mass meetings at 8 a.m., and 4 and 8 p.m. Wednesday at Teamsters Local 377’s hall at 1223 Teamster Drive to discuss what happens next.

“Nothing is going to be resolved until we get back to the bargaining table and have meaningful negotiations that lead to mutual agreement,” Williams said.

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