New York hospital workers begin strike

Members of the Rochester Union of Nurses and Allied Professionals began a two-day strike Aug. 3 at Rochester (N.Y.) General Hospital. 

The union represents hundreds of registered nurses, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. Rochester General Hospital is part of Rochester Regional Health.

Union members voted to authorize a strike July 20. The union and hospital began negotiating a new labor contract in October, according to the Rochester Union of Nurses and Allied Professionals website

The hospital expressed disappointment about the strike. 

"RGH did not want this strike and we believe nothing we have proposed or haven't proposed in our negotiations with RUNAP warranted this strike," the hospital said in a statement shared with Becker's

The hospital added that union leadership "is conducting a strike when RGH's proposals at the bargaining table have sought to ensure our units are appropriately staffed, continue providing competitive pay and benefits and ensure we are able to provide our patients with the best possible care."

RGH noted that since January 2020, the hospital had increased nurse base wages by an average of 19 percent. The hospital's most recent wage proposal was an average 7.8 percent increase for the first year of the contract, equating to a more than 26 percent average increase in about three and a half years. 

"If RGH were to agree to everything RUNAP wanted around wages, staffing and benefits, it would cost Rochester Regional Health more than $111 million for just the first year of the contract," the hospital said. "Given that RRH is already projecting a $150 million loss this year and anticipates further losses into 2024, that would be irresponsible."

The union, through its Facebook page, said it "presented a comprehensive counter package with all major outstanding unresolved items. We did not move on staffing, wages, etc., but did make some significant reductions on our health benefit asks that would save the system a ton of money on the total contract cost."

Nurses are seeking improved nurse-to-patient ratios to address their concerns about patient safety, workload pressures and patient care, Nela Hadzic, regional organizing director of Northeast Nurses Association, said in a news release, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.

"Now is our time to stand together and show RGH administration that you cannot run a hospital without nurses," the group said, according to the newspaper.

The hospital said a number of RUNAP-represented nurses have decided not to join the strike and are working their scheduled shifts. The hospital has also contracted with an agency to hire temporary replacement nurses during the strike.

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