Contract talks stall over health insurance and other issues
Employees of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center voted overwhelmingly last Thursday to authorize their negotiating committee to plan a picket of the hospital if negotiations failed to achieve a settlement by week's end. When talks failed to progress last Friday, the employee committee notified the hospital that staff would picket on April 3 if no agreement was reached by that date.
Talks continued on Monday and Tuesday, but broke off late Tuesday afternoon. No further negotiations are confirmed at this time.
The current union contract covers approximately 650 staff of the hospital. It expired on Dec. 8, 2012, and was extended by mutual agreement several times while talks continued. Negotiations began in September and were joined by a federal mediator in December. The most recent extension is due to expire on March 31.
After many lean years, with the hospital now in a better financial condition, employees are looking to move toward a more competitive compensation package in order to recruit and retain quality health care professionals.
Key issues left unresolved include health insurance, wages, retirement, and job security issues.
"Our highest priority is to provide the best quality patient care for our community," said Evelyn Harris, a personal care assistant in the emergency room for the past 38 years, and a member of the employee negotiating committee. "To do that, we need to address issues that make sure that Memorial is able to recruit and retain good employees."
Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center is located at 621 Tenth St., Niagara Falls. It provides acute care, behavioral health, outpatient and emergency services from its main campus and at several locations in Niagara County.
Employees involved in these negotiations work as registered nurses, medical technicians, licensed practical nurses, therapists, social workers, dietary, housekeeping and maintenance employees. The employees are members of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. 1199 SEIU members also work at Mount St. Mary's Hospital, Kaleida Health System, Eastern Niagara Hospital, and at numerous other health care facilities throughout Western New York.