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NYSNA nursing victories and struggles around NYC

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 12/30/2011, 11:38 a.m.

The registered nurses at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan scored a victory Wednesday when they reached a tentative deal with hospital representatives on a new contract. As a result, the New York State Nurses Association called off plans to go on strike Jan. 3.

A statement by the NYSNA said the agreement "addresses the nurses' principal concerns throughout the negotiations-affordable health care, relief for members with high prescription costs, safe staffing levels for patients and nurses and fair wages."

The nurses-all 1,300 of them-had been working without a contract since December 2010, and representatives took part in more than two dozen bargaining sessions with management.

Two other major New York City hospitals are still in the middle of intense contract bargaining: Mount Sinai and Montefiore. The Mount Sinai negotiations continue today, while Montefiore talks resume next Tuesday. Those NYSNA members have also authorized strikes, but the union has not presented the strike notice yet.

But there's more good news in the nurses' world for Mount Sinai and Montefiore to take notice of.

After a year of negotiations, the registered nurses at New York-Presbyterian Hospital approved a four-year extension to their contract last week. The agreement puts 3,000 nurses back to work without worry over health benefits for themselves and lets them focus on their job of preserving the health of others.

"As a result of these negotiations, we believe Presbyterian management has gained a better sense of the nurses' concerns for practice, their families and their futures," said NYSNA negotiator Thomas Darby. "They now understand that the nurses have the right to choose to put money toward benefits rather than salary."

Overall news has been mixed for the NYSNA, which faces more labor/management issues. On the Friday before Thanksgiving, nurses at Montefiore Medical Center protested in front of their place of employment and voiced their frustration over being understaffed, losses in their health benefits and working without a contract for over a year.

But according to the hospital, some of the union's complaints are about things both parties had already agreed upon. A spokesperson told the AmNews that they had agreed on "minimum staffing standards" and said that nurses were turning their backs on them, but didn't indicate what those standards were. They also said that the lack of a formal contract hasn't stopped them from adhering to pay increases and they insist nurses are still getting the proper health benefits.

The NYSNA members at Montefiore have authorized strikes, but the union hasn't presented the strike notice yet. As of press time, there have no reports of a resolution.

The New York State Nurses Association is the voice for nursing in the Empire State. With more than 37,000 members, it is New York's largest professional association and union for registered nurses.