Kaleida Health and employees continue contract negotiations

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) – Unionized Kaleida Health employees were at the bargaining table Friday, hoping to reach an agreement with Kaleida Health on employee contracts. Representatives from CWA Local 1168 and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East told 7 News they don’t want to strike, it’s a “last resort.”

A joint statement from the two unions states:

“Kaleida’s full-time staff, who report feeling undervalued and undervalued, continue to see healthcare workers choosing to enter travel nursing rather than accepting or remaining in positions full-time in Kaleida due to understaffing, lower wages and lack of respect on They demand a competitive contract with enforceable staff ratios and to help recruit local staff to fill vacancies.

Kaleida workers can now strike after Thursday’s vote, but must give Kaleida Health ten days’ notice.

On Friday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he had been in touch with both parties and hoped they would reach an agreement. However, Poloncarz said plans are underway with hospitals in Rochester, Erie and Pittsburgh in the event of a strike.

“We are ready,” Poloncarz said. “We are putting plans in place with the Department of Health’s Emergency Medical Services Division to resolve what is certain to be something this community has never seen, should it occur.”

Poloncarz said the Catholic health strike last year had substantial impacts, but a strike within Kaleida would have more impact because of the limitations it would impose on many facilities. This includes Buffalo General Hospital, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, HighPointe Michigan, DeGraff Medical Park, and other clinics and centers.

7 News spoke with a representative from Kaleida Health on Friday, who referenced Thursday’s statement:

“We look forward to returning to the bargaining table tomorrow. The unions have had to concentrate on the strike vote, so we have not been able to negotiate for the last three days. As we have always said, we do not want a strike, it will be devastating and dangerous for this community.

What we want is a fair contract that appropriately rewards our workforce and positions the organization for the future. This includes not negotiating concessions, meeting staffing needs and becoming the market leader again in terms of salaries. We have not deviated from these commitments, but our resources are not infinite. In fact, we are trying to negotiate a contract after posting over $200 million in losses since 2020 due to the pandemic. At present, the current union proposal is estimated at over $500 million. Simply put, these numbers compromise the future viability of Kaleida Health.

That said, we are continuing our contingency planning in the event of a strike. This week we met with the Erie County Health Department as well as the New York State Health Department to review our updated scenario plans. This includes everything from emergency room access, triage of surgical cases, ambulance transportation as well as coordinating with hospitals outside of Western New York that we may need to transfer patients to.

Again, we hope these measures prove unnecessary, but it is essential that we have contingencies in place for the benefit of our patients. Patient access and care will remain the priority, regardless of the duration or location of any work stoppage. »

CWA District 1 Regional Manager Debbie Hayes sent this statement to 7 News in response to Kaleida’s claim that the unions’ proposal reached $500 million:

“Kaleida’s assertion that our proposal on the table is worth approximately $500 million is misleading, as the proposal includes language that was agreed upon before we began negotiations in March, including our clinical staffing proposals. , as now required by the state to ensure safe staffing. ratios in hospitals. We are back at the negotiating table today and ready to work with Kaleida to secure a strong and fair contract, but we will not settle for a status quo where the quality of patient care and the quality of life of workers continue to decline. If Kaleida is truly committed to providing the best care to the Buffalo community, management must make a significant investment in order to rebuild after the pandemic and deliver on the promise of safe staffing ratios.

Last June, the New York State Personnel Safety Act was signed into law as a major victory for hospital and nursing home personnel. As a result, 1199SEIU and CWA Local 1168 worked with Kaleida management.

Hayes said Kaleida promised 436 new full-time equivalent positions to meet security personnel needs, but Kaleida already had 800 vacancies. Hayes said that leaves Kaleida looking to hire for more than 1,200 openings. This had led many healthcare workers to express their “burnout”.

Cori Gambini, President of CWA Local 1168 and Registered Nurse said:

“A strike is the last thing we want. No one wants to quit their job, but we are considering all of our options as we see a decline in the quality of care that needs to be reversed. “As a nurse, it breaks my heart not being able to give each patient the attention they deserve, but it is also dangerous. It is dangerous when we are exhausted, when we are exhausted and when colleagues keep leaving because they do not see any action from Kaleida to attract new recruits. We voted to allow a strike because if the hospital workers who walk through the doors of Kaleida every day and see the dire situation don’t stand up for the people of Buffalo, who will? Patients and families are frustrated waiting hours for care, even as our staff scramble to try to keep up, and that needs to change.

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