Catholic Health pulls the plug on CWA employee health benefits after negotiations fall apart

Catholic Health Hospital Strike

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Catholic Health is following through on its strategy to pull healthcare benefits for striking CWA employees as contract negotiations stall, now on day 31.

Catholic Health told the union on October 25 that if a deal wasn’t reached by October 30 that striking employees’ health benefits would get pulled. Talks between the union and hospital bargainers looked promising this weekend and Catholic Health said they would extend healthcare benefits as a show of good faith.

According to Catholic Health, those promising talks fell apart Sunday morning around 6 a.m. A key sticking point remains employee-to-patient staffing ratios in specific units. Negotiators did not meet at the bargaining table Sunday.

Catholic Health said Sunday afternoon they have started to send notices to its CWA-represented Mercy Hospital employees that their health benefits are being discontinued. A Catholic Health spokesperson said benefits will resume once a tentative deal is reached with the union’s members.

A Catholic health spokesperson said, “the hospitals stand by their offer that would provide associates with fair, competitive wages and benefits, and that includes progressive staffing language.”

A nurse at Mercy Hospital told us Wednesday that she’s going to stay on the picket line despite the risk of losing her healthcare benefits.

“It’s their right to pull the insurance if they want to, but it just shows their true character,” said Karen Mahoney, RN, Mercy Hospital. “I don’t see any of us breaking the line and trying to go back to work, that was a good thought he had but I doubt if that ever happens.”

CWA spokesperson Dennis Trainor told News 4 that Catholic Health is attempting to backpedal on staffing ratios and once the union’s requests are met — the strike will end.

“Catholic Health knows its allegations can’t be taken seriously when it calls us healthcare heroes in one breath and dangerous in the next. Bargaining continues to be productive, and we are hopeful that a resolution is on the horizon,” said Dennis Trainor, vice president, CWA District One. “The reality is that Catholic Health is trying to go backward on staffing, and its proposal would create ratios in medical-surgical units that are worse than the current management-created staffing grids. We are ready to put this strike behind us and get back to work, and as soon as Catholic Health agrees to staffing ratios that are safe for staff and patients, we can do that.”

The strike at Mercy Hospital began on October 1 after Catholic Health and CWA weren’t able to agree on a new contract. The key sticking point from the beginning has been staffing ratios.

Patrick Ryan is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here.

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