by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — A settlement has tentatively been reached in a labor battle between Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and its employees, represented by 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
At 6:30 p.m., negotiators for both sides finalized an agreement which would keep the almost 650 hospital workers in the hospital. It is believed to be a three-year agreement.
Terms of the deal were not released.
In a joint statement released by the hospital and the labor union, Patrick Bradley, marketing and public relations director for the hospital, said the proposed contract will be presented to union members for a vote later this month.
“If ratified, the agreement will cover approximately 650 hospital staff members,” the statement said. “The previous collective bargaining agreement expired on December 8, 2012, and was extended by mutual agreement several times while talks continued.”
Membership in the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which negotiated the deal, includes registered and licensed practical nurses, medical technicians, therapists, social workers, dietary, housekeeping and maintenance employees.
The union had been seeking what it called a “more competitive” contract with the hospital when negotiations began last September. Franchelle Hart, communications coordinator for 1199 SEIU, said membership was seeking health insurance, better wages, stronger retirement contributions from the hospital and job security as part of a new deal.
If the deal hadn’t been reached, union officials were planning on holding a picket in front of the hospital today. Hart said the picket is canceled with the new tentative agreement in place.
Federal mediators had also played a role in negotiations since December, when the original contract expired. Hart said the union appreciated the input mediators provided in facilitating the process.
“It’s always a little bit easier with someone facilitating the conversation between the two parties,” she said. “It is helpful.”