Catholic Health workers announce plans to strike Oct. 1

Workers at Catholic Health's Mercy Hospital of Buffalo (N.Y.) plan to strike Oct. 1 if a contract is not reached by then, according to a union news release.  

The decision, announced Sept. 20, affects Mercy Hospital workers represented by the Communications Workers of America, including nurses, technologists, clerical staff and other service workers.

Union representatives said the workers are planning to strike because they seek a fair contract to attract and retain the workers needed to provide patient care.

"We are going on strike for our patients and for our community," Tina Knop, a critical care registered nurse at Mercy Hospital, said in the union news release. "We have risked our lives over the last 18 months providing care to Buffalo during the pandemic, and despite a terrible staffing crisis, shortages of supplies and a hospital management that won't listen to our concerns, we continue to do everything we can every day to provide the best possible patient care. But Catholic Health is ignoring our sacrifices."

The union said hundreds of new hires are needed to ensure safe staffing levels, and it seeks safe staffing ratios to help ensure quality patient care.

In a statement, Catholic Health called the plans to strike "inconceivable" amid the COVID-19 pandemic and said the hospital will remain open and operational if the strike occurs as planned.

The system said its contingency plan during the strike involves contracting with a professional staffing agency to provide fully licensed, highly experienced, vaccinated temporary replacement nurses and other qualified staff to provide care and services.

Meanwhile, Catholic Health aims to prevent a strike through negotiations.

Eddie Bratko, president of Mercy Hospital, said, "We remain committed to bargaining in good faith with CWA on the issues that are most important to our associates to reach tentative agreement on new labor contracts, without the CWA leading our associates on strike."

Communications Workers of America represents more than 2,500 front-line workers at Catholic Health's Mercy Hospital, Kenmore (N.Y.) Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Buffalo. Workers at Mercy Hospital voted Sept. 9 to authorize a strike and issued a strike notice Sept. 21. The union can withdraw the strike notice before Oct. 1.  

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