31-day strike at New Jersey hospital ends

Members of the JNESO District Council 1 IUOE-AFL-CIO labor union have ended a 31-day strike at Saint Michael's Medical Center in Newark, N.J.

The strike by 350 nurses and technologists at Saint Michael's, which began May 23, ended after union members voted June 22 to accept the hospital's latest contract proposal, according to a news release.

"This was a long, hard fight over really important patient care and employee care, and safety issues," Virginia Treacy, RN, JNESO senior negotiator, said in the release. "While we didn't get everything we wanted, our members feel that their voices have been heard and we got enough for them to be comfortable going back to work and getting the hospital back on its feet."

The new three-year contract is retroactive to May 4. The union said its members will return to work as soon as this weekend if hospital scheduling permits.

According to the union, highlights of the contract include a 3 percent wage increase each contract year for full- and part-time JNESO nurses and techs, as well as increased differential pay for weekend shifts.

Healthcare premiums will also be frozen during the life of the contract, and safe staffing ratios will follow the current state statute for hospital licensure standards, the union said. Additionally, safety is addressed in the contract, including an agreement to install cameras in the parking lot.

In a statement shared with Becker's, Saint Michael's CEO Alan Sickles, MD, said, "We are thrilled that the rank-and-file members of the union approved what we believe is a fair contract proposal. While it's unfortunate that we could not have negotiated this agreement without a strike, we are looking forward to having our nurses and medical staff return to their jobs."

Saint Michael's said the hospital arranged for qualified staff to ensure the hospital remained open and fully functioning while the strike occurred.

"It was important for us to remain open and fully functional during the strike because we provide a vital service to our community," Dr. Sickles said in the hospital statement. "Throughout the strike, our patients continued to receive the high-quality, safe healthcare that the community has come to expect from us."

Saint Michael's is part of Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare. 

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