Niagara Gazette

March 27, 2013

Union threatens picket at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Employees of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center are threatening to picket the 10th Street health care facility if they are unable to come to terms with management over health insurance and other contract-related issues.

A release issued Wednesday by the health care workers' union 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East said an employee committee has informed hospital management of the staff's intention to picket if no agreement is reached by April 3. 

According to the release, employees voted last week to authorize the negotiating committee to plan a picket. The release indicates that talks between the two sides broke off Tuesday afternoon and no further negotiations are confirmed at this time. 

NFMMC spokesman Pat Bradley declined comment on Wednesday when asked about the contents of the release or plans for the picket. 

The health care workers' union said the current employee contract covers about 650 staff members at the hospital. According to the union, the agreement expired on Dec. 8, 2012 and was extended by mutual agreement several times while talks continued. The release indicates that negotiations started in September were joined in December by a federal mediator. The union says the most recent contract extension is due to expire March 31. 

The staff's negotiating committee represents registered nurses, medical technicians, licensed practical nurses, therapists, social workers, dietary, housekeeping and maintenance employees who are members of 1199 SEIU United Health Care Workers East. 

Key issues left unresolved during contract negotiations include health insurance, wages, retirement and job security, union members said. 

"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 staff's negotiating committee. "To do that, we need to address issues that make sure that Memorial is able to recruit and retain good employees."