Northside nurses reject contract

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Nurses working at Youngstown’s Northside Medical Center rejected a contract Tuesday that hospital officials said was their final offer.

The voting took place over the course of three sessions on Tuesday at the Teamsters Union Hall, not far from the hospital. Vote totals were unavailable, but a union member said 90 percent of the members voted the contract down.

The union also voted to authorize a 10-day strike notice if it is needed.

“The nurses overwhelmingly authorized us to give that notice in the event that the negotiating teams feels it’s necessary to do so. Again, it’s not our intent to rush out there to do that. Our intent is to get back to the bargaining table and it’s always our intent to reach an agreement,” said Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association president Eric Williams.

WKBN obtained a copy of what hospital management said was their final offer for the approximately 400 members of the bargaining unit. It was sent to those members late last week, with claims the two sides had reached an impasse in their negotiations.

The deal called for a 2.5 percent pay raise and health care contributions of 17.5 to 22.5 percent of the insurance premium. Also, nurses would have had the opportunity to volunteer to stay home on days when staffing levels are adjusted. The voluntarily furlough days was one of the main sticking points, union officials said.

“Our registered nurses are valued colleagues who play a critical role in our work to provide patients with quality, personalized care,” said Trish Hrina, Vice President of Marketing for ValleyCareHealth System of Ohio.” While it is unfortunate not to have resolution with the O.N.A., we are committed to continuing in a productive, mutually beneficial and respectful relationship with all of our employees.”

Williams said earlier in the day that hospital management has refused to listen to the nurses’ concerns regarding patient safety and quality of care, noting patient care is the “union’s number one priority.”

Executives with ValleyCare Health System of Ohio, which runs Northside, are accusing the union of trying to discredit the hospital and engage in what’s being called “regressive bargaining.”

The letter sent to nurses states the hospital also has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union. The letter came just a day after executives announced a series of layoffs at Northside last week.

ValleyCare Health System of Ohio announced last week they are laying off the equivalent 77 full-time positions as they make a $29 million investment in upgrades to the hospital on Gypsy Lane.

Nurses at Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland and Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, the other hospitals in ValleyCare’s system, have reached three-year work agreements with Community Health Services, ValleyCare’s parent organization.

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