Kaleida Health workers plan picket amid bargaining

Members of the Communications Workers of America and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East plan to hold a public informational picket Aug. 18 at two Kaleida Health campuses in Buffalo, N.Y.

The unions represent Kaleida Health workers including registered nurses, nurse practitioners, dietary workers, personal care attendants, professionals, technicians, service and maintenance workers, and clerical workers. The informational picket is planned outside of Buffalo General Medical Center and John R. Oishei Children's Hospital in downtown Buffalo.

On Aug. 5, members notified Kaleida Health about the informational picket, according to an Aug. 8 news release shared with Becker's. They said the action is to raise awareness about what they deem unacceptable working conditions for staff and patients, and their goal of a contract that will enable the health system to recruit and retain staff. 

"This informational picket is an opportunity for workers who are exhausted from severe understaffing at the hospitals and nursing homes and concerned about their ability to provide quality care under the current conditions to speak out about what they are enduring," Cori Gambini, RN, president of CWA Local 1168, said in the release.

Kaleida Health has committed to adding more than 400 full-time equivalent employees under a state law signed last year mandating hospitals to establish clinical staffing committees. Those expected hires are in addition to the more than 800 existing staff vacancies at the health system. 

However, the union said this commitment is without the needed financial support from the state and is calling on the state to help alleviate staffing problems. 

Meanwhile, contract negotiations continue between Kaleida Health and union workers.

In response to the informational picket, Kaleida Health released a statement Aug. 8.

"In March, we committed to three objectives as part of this contract: no concessions, plus addressing staffing and wages," the statement read in part. "We have not wavered from that commitment. As far as economic proposals, we have exchanged proposals but are still quite far apart. The unions' initial proposal would cost us eight times of what we spent on the 2019 contract. We expect a revised proposal from the unions soon, which will allow us to continue to have productive negotiations."

The health system also said it "will continue to negotiate in good faith until we can reach an agreement."

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