BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Kaleida Health union workers plan to pound the pavement in an informational picket to shine the light on their ongoing contract negotiations with the healthcare provider.

The workers, represented by Communications Workers of America and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, delivered a 10-day notice to Kaleida Monday with their intent to hold an informational picket on Aug. 18.

The picket is planned to happen outside of Buffalo General Medical Center and Oishei Children’s Hospital.

The union members’ contract expired on July 31, and the bargaining committee has been meeting five days a week to hammer out a new agreement.

The unions want to fix “unacceptable working conditions for Kaleida’s staff and patients, and the dire need for a contract that will enable Kaleida to recruit and retain staff,” a union news release said.

Kaleida healthcare workers are represented by the unions at Buffalo General Medical Center, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, HighPointe on Michigan, DeGraff Medical Park and other community-based clinics.

“Over the last three years, healthcare workers have been fighting a global pandemic tirelessly all while being short-staffed,” added Jim Scordato, vice president for WNY Hospitals, 1199SEIU. “After five months of bargaining, we need to educate the public on how difficult it has been for these union workers to secure a new contract. Our members have been working short-staffed far too long and in unacceptable working conditions. The state’s newly created staffing law forces Kaleida to add more than 400 full-time equivalent positions on top of the more than 800 vacancies they currently have, but all without any financial support from the state to help fill those positions. The state needs to come to the table for all of our WNY Hospitals, not just Kaleida, and put money behind those jobs, so hospital workers can get some relief from day after day of working critically short staffed.”

Kaleida Health released the following statement in response to the 10-day notice:

“This is certainly a right of theirs as part of negotiations; in fact, it is often a normal part of the collective bargaining process. Even if the informational picket occurs, it does not mean that negotiations have broken down. Talks remain cordial and we are joint problem solving,” a Kaleida Health spokesperson said.

“In March, we committed to three objectives as part of this contract: no concessions, plus addressing staffing and wages. We have not wavered from that commitment. As far as economic proposals, we have exchanged proposals but are still quite far apart. The unions’ initial proposal would cost us eight times (8x) of what we spent on the 2019 contract. We expect a revised proposal from the unions soon, which will allow us to continue to have productive negotiations.

“Our goal is to get back to the market lead and be the employer of choice. That means getting us to the recently signed Catholic Health System labor contract. That is the market standard right now. But the cost of doing that will be at least twice of what we spent for the contract in 2019. Considering our current financial condition and the enormous economic challenges in front of us, that’s problematic. All that said, we will continue negotiate in good faith until we can reach an agreement.”

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Patrick Ryan is a JANY award-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.