Catholic Health nears end of contract with 2,500 CWA union employees

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One of the largest health providers in Western New York is facing a labor dispute as a union contract winds down with 2,500 of the nurses, service, technical and clerical workers at hospitals like Mercy, Kenmore Mercy and Sisters of Charity Hospital.

“For 14 months, they were heroes and now they’re being treated like, you know, nothing,” said Debora Hayes, upstate New York director for the Communications Workers of America, which includes Locals 1133 and 1168.

Contract talks have been going since January. The contract expires on September 30, but there are still 50 unsettled issues, according to Hayes. “By the time our employees experience their concessions and health insurance and pension, their take home pay would be significantly lower even with the one percent raise that Catholic Health is offering us.”

Registered nurse, Corrine Webb says Mercy Hospital is short staffed and short on supplies. “We actually cut towels to make wash cloths, so we can wash our people. We’ve been out of needles. “I have no urinals, we are searching from floor to floor.”

Catholic Health responded to these claims with the following statement;

Thanks to strong leadership and the hard work of our entire healthcare team, Catholic Health remains the area leader in quality, patient safety, and overall patient experience as evidenced by the latest CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) Hospital Compare star ratings and independent Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades. 

We remain committed to bargaining in good faith with the union to reach contracts that provide our associates with fair, competitive wages and benefits, while allowing our hospitals to continue providing high quality, affordable care to our community. We hope to settle these negotiations with CWA without delays or disputes, just as Catholic Health recently did with SEIU 1199 at our St. Joseph Campus, McAuley Residence and St. Catherine Labouré Health Care Center.  

While negotiations continue, we are in the midst of a local and national labor shortage, While negotiations continue, we are in the midst of a local and national labor shortage, affecting big and small employers across the country and healthcare providers here in Western New York. We’ve added additional resources within our recruitment department and our team is working diligently to fill all vacant positions. We participate in numerous job fairs and hiring events, and market our job openings extensively throughout the region and beyond.   

The lack of qualified candidates, extended unemployment benefits, and extensive state-mandated leave policies make it difficult to fill vacant positions. Like other area healthcare providers, we continue to hire contracted agency staff to supplement our workforce. Despite these challenges, we continue to recruit and develop qualified candidates. 

The supply chain has been affected by the global pandemic and we have been working very closely with our suppliers as well as pursuing new supply channels to ensure our staff have the supplies they need.  

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