Nov. 17 Trinity Health nurses strike set as another strike is averted

About 800 nurses are set to strike for two days beginning Nov. 17 at Trinity Health-owned St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, Pa., but a strike by about 260 nurses at the Mercy Catholic Medical Center’s Mercy Fitzgerald Campus in Darby, Pa., has been averted, according to hospital and union officials. 

Both hospitals are in the Philadelphia area and part of Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health's Mid-Atlantic division.

At Mercy Fitzgerald, nurses and hospital management reached a labor deal Nov. 10, according to statements shared with Becker's from the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals and hospital. 

But nurses at St. Mary, who are also represented by PASNAP, had not settled as of Nov. 13, and they said they are still set to strike Nov. 17 and Nov. 18. 

The union initially announced strike plans at both facilities Nov. 5, saying its members are striking because hospital executives, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, "have refused to put basic patient protections and fairness for nurses in the nurses' contracts." 

Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic officials said the agreement reached with Mercy Fitzgerald is "good news for our nurses, colleagues and community." 

They said good faith negotiations between the union and St. Mary have been ongoing for several months and much progress has been made, including a tentative agreement on more than 40 issues and good dialogue about staffing. The union said nurses are asking for a commitment to safe minimum staffing and affordable healthcare. In the end, an agreement had not been reached as of Nov. 13.

Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic officials contend the key sticking point in negotiations is wages. They said PASNAP requested an 11 percent wage increase for all nurses in the first contract year, with additional increases totaling 17 percent over the life of the contract. St. Mary's offer was an average of 5 percent in the first year, and on Nov. 13, the hospital said it offered up to 11 percent over the life of the contract.

"Our offer is very competitive for nurses working in Bucks County and reflected what St. Mary can do given the financial impact of the pandemic on St. Mary and other healthcare providers across the country," Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic officials said. 

The union said wages are not the only key sticking point and that nurses seek safe minimal staffing grids to ensure both patient and nurse safety. 

"Safe staffing is the main issue in our negotiation. It's why we organized last year in the first place,"  Kathy McKamey, RN, said in a news release. "Trinity has refused to commit to the minimal safe staffing guidelines … But the truth is, even if they had, we don't have the staff to fill them because our wage scale is so far below area hospitals."

Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic officials expressed disappointment about the strike that is planned, particularly during the pandemic, but said if the strike does occur, the hospital will remain open and has engaged qualified, professional nurses to provide care during the strike. 

Officials expect striking nurses will not return to work for five days due to the time needed to transition care from replacement nurses back to striking ones.  

 

More articles on human resources:
Maine hospital workers reach labor deal
McLaren Flint nurses reach labor deal
Ohio nurses say they're ready to strike Nov. 21

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