Nurses ratify new contract

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – After 18 months without a labor agreement and a year of turmoil at Northside Medical Center, the 370 members of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association have ratified a new labor contract.

The vote count came in just before 10 p.m. Wednesday. The exact count was not released, but YGDNA President Eric Williams said there was a “high turnout.”

The one-year agreement offered by Community Health Systems/ValleyCare Health System is retroactive to a previous salary scale that was established when the hospital was managed by Forum Health. The minimum pay increase will be 2.5 percent, depending on pay rate and number of years on the job.

“They will be placed back in the wage scale to before Forum filed bankruptcy. People were frozen in time in their wage scale and didn’t advance or move,” said Williams. “They will be unfrozen and placed at the level they should have been had they continued all the way through. Some people will see way more than a 2.5 percent increase.”

Nurses voted throughout the day Wednesday with sessions taking place at noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Teamsters Local 377 union hall on Teamsters Drive in Youngstown.

The vote comes after a year of contention between the bargaining unit and hospital administration. Nurses staged a one-day strike in September and replacement nurses were brought in to cover shifts. As the nurses returned to work the next day, some were turned away by hospital administrators and not allowed back in the hospital for up to one week.

Later, layoffs across all departments were announced at the hospital. Of the 56 employees affected, four were nursing positions.

In a release, the hospital said the contract allows it to utilize flex staffing levels during period of low volume.

“We value all of our employees and are pleased to have finally reached an agreement that allows us to provide wage increases that we have wanted our nurses to have,” said Trish Hrina, vice president of Marketing and Public Relations for Northside and ValleyCare Health System of Ohio. “Regardless of any distractions, our hospital remained focused on our primary purpose of providing patients with high quality, compassionate care.”

More than 300 registered nurses are covered by the collective bargaining agreement, the release states.

The new agreement contains no retro-activity provisions.

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