BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Catholic Health says the Communications Workers of America Local 1133, the union representing around 2,500 Mercy Hospital employees, has submitted a 10-day strike notice.

The healthcare provider and the union have been at odds over the terms of their contract negotiations.

In a statement Sunday, Catholic Health said their discussions with CWA have made some progress, but they can’t agree on how to solve the staffing shortage at Mercy Hospital. The union is pushing for better wages and staffing ratios that set the number of healthcare workers it takes to care for a patient.

Tina Knop, critical care registered nurse at Mercy Hospital, said Monday that Catholic Health is ignoring the sacrifices its employees have made during the pandemic.

“We are going on strike for our patients and for our community,” said Tina Knop, critical care registered nurse at Mercy Hospital said. “We have risked our lives over the last 18 months providing care to Buffalo during the pandemic, and despite a terrible staffing crisis, shortages of supplies and a hospital management that won’t listen to our concerns, we continue to do everything we can every day to provide the best possible patient care. But Catholic Health is ignoring our sacrifices.” 

The president of Mercy Hospital Eddie Bratko says CWA’s intent to strike if their terms aren’t met is “inconceivable” in the midst of a pandemic.

“It is inconceivable that the union would lead essential healthcare workers on strike in the midst of an ongoing pandemic,” said Bratko. “I want to assure our community that our top priority is the welfare and safety of our patients, and our hospital will remain open and operational during a strike to continue providing safe, high-quality care.”

Catholic Health says if a strike does happen, they will stay open. The healthcare provider adds its prepared to bring in contracted healthcare workers to fill the vacancies. Bratko maintains that Catholic Health is committed to reaching a tentative agreement with the union to avoid a strike.

“We value our associates. Over the last 18 months, we believe no health system in New York State has done more to protect the health and safety of its workforce. We scoured the nation and beyond to make sure we had ample PPE for associates, paid hazard pay longer than any other local health system, and launched a robust resiliency program to support our team. We have pulled out all the stops to recruit needed staff in an extremely difficult labor market, hiring nearly 1,200 new associates, including 230 registered nurses, since the beginning of the year.”

“We are working hard to ensure our associates have the support they need to effectively care for them-selves and our patients. The union’s inflammatory rhetoric around ongoing negotiations with our hospitals and the threat of a strike with no clear end date is contributing unnecessarily to the stress of 2,000 Mercy Hospital associates.”

JoAnn Cavanaugh, Catholic Health Director of Public Relations

If a deal isn’t reached in 10 days, CWA Mercy Hospital employees will strike beginning on October 1 at 6 a.m.

Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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