Nurses locked out at Northside

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Some nurses at Northside Hospital were told to return to work Wednesday, but others have no idea when their next shift is.

The nurses didn’t plan on picketing when their 24-hour unfair labor strike ended at 7 a.m.

“I got my letter this morning. I went, showed up for work. I came dressed for work, and they gave me a letter, and my letter says I cannot go back to work until Friday,” said Colleen Beil, who works in the hospital’s step-down cardiac unit.

The Ohio Nurses Association said nurses were given letters Wednesday morning. Some instructed nurses to report Wednesday, others had no dates and some were told to report to work on another day.

“I tried to go in and they told me I was not allowed to go in. I had to pick up my letter and I’m not allowed to return until Monday,” said Roxanne Diaz, who works in the nursing float pool.

ONA is calling it a selective lockout. The union said nurses not scheduled to work Tuesday and who did not picket are allowed back into the building. Those nurses scheduled to work Tuesday and who instead marched on the picket line are not permitted back to work.

Union representatives also said they don’t like what they’re hearing from nurses who did return to work.

“Call lights going off and not enough nurses to answer them, which seems to signal to us that there’s not enough nurses,” said Kelly Trautner, deputy director of ONA.

But Northside officials said it’s business as usual inside the hospital. They released a statement saying nurses who didn’t report to duty during the strike will be returning once the 72-hour period for replacement nurses is over. It added that it looks forward to welcoming all of its nurses at that time.

A union official said Wednesday that Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association President Eric Williams had been locked out and was told he was not welcome back, but he said Thursday he was given a letter telling him to report to work on Monday.

The two sticking points in the negotiations that have not changed are wages and patient safety.

For weeks, leaders with the nurses union have been complaining that the proposed “final agreement” offered by the hospital would prevent nurses from “advocating” for their patients. The nurses said they’re particularly upset with language included in the offer that they claim could create a gag order against the employees.

But hospital officials said that is not true and a spokeswoman for Northside challenged the nurses to publicly prove their claims. Administrators said in a news release on Tuesday “there is nothing in the hospital’s proposals that would change the right and responsibility of our nurses to provide input, raise concerns and actively participate in efforts to advance quality or to speak up about any matter that impacts quality care for patients.”

The nurses and hospital administrators met two weeks ago with a federal mediator, but an agreement was not reached. The nurses have been working under an expired contract since July 2012.

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