Catholic Health workers reach labor deal

Buffalo, N.Y.-based Catholic Health reached a tentative agreement Nov. 4 amid a strike that has lasted more than a month at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, according to statements from Catholic Health and the workers' union.

Catholic Health also reached tentative deals Nov. 4 covering workers at Kenmore (N.Y.) Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity, St. Joseph Campus, in Buffalo. 

If the agreement is ratified by members, the Communications Workers of America said the strike by about 2,000 workers at Mercy Hospital will end.

The union is not releasing full details about the agreement until comprehensive bargaining reports can be prepared and shared with workers, but it praised the tentative deal.

"We have stressed from day one that front-line workers' overriding concerns are sufficient staffing to ensure high-quality patient care and a compensation package adequate to allow Catholic Health to attract and retain the staff needed to obtain staffing improvements. This contract achieves those major objectives, with historic breakthroughs in guaranteed safe staffing ratios, substantial across the board wage increases, including bringing all workers above $15 an hour and preserving health and retirement plans intact. Hundreds of new workers will be hired under this agreement to remedy dire staffing shortages," CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor and Area Director Debora Hayes said in a news release.

Catholic Health said the agreement complies fully with the New York state safe staffing law set to take effect in January, and it adds 250 new positions.

"We listened to our associates, and their primary concerns were market-competitive wages and increased staffing," Mark Sullivan, president and CEO of Catholic Health, said in a news release. "These new contracts address both and more. We are ready to welcome our caregivers back to Mercy Hospital."

The Communications Workers of America has scheduled ratification meetings for Nov. 6 and Nov. 7, with the goal of bringing workers back to their jobs by Nov. 10.  

Catholic Health said Mercy Hospital will restore services that were suspended during the strike and will be providing updates. 

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