Catholic Health spending tens of millions on contract services amid strike

Catholic Health officials said the system is spending tens of millions of dollars on a staffing firm for replacement workers as the Buffalo, N.Y.-based Mercy Hospital strike continues, The Buffalo News reported Nov. 2.

The hospital is also losing revenue because of its limited services. Mercy usually cares for more than 300 people, but now is down to more than 100, according to the article.

Catholic Health continued to pay health benefits to the striking workers during the first month of the strike, which added up to $1.34 million. But the health system started sending notices Oct. 31 that it is suspending these benefits.

The Communications Workers of America — which represents about 2,500 workers across three Catholic Health Hospitals — has a national relief fund of $440 million and has increased the union's weekly benefits for strikers to $400 since Oct. 15. Depending on income, striking workers can also collect unemployment benefits.

The union began the strike Oct. 1, citing concerns about staffing and patient care. Throughout negotiations, the union said it has sought an agreement with adequate wages to attract and retain staff and a contract that guarantees adequate staffing and care levels.

Catholic Health's most recent proposal includes wage increases each year of a four-year contract, retroactive pay raises to June and the addition of 250 new positions.

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