CWA workers at Mercy Hospital vote to authorize strike

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Employees at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo represented by the Communication Workers of America voted late Thursday night to authorize a strike in the event contract negotiations with the healthcare provider don’t pan out.

97 percent of union members voted in favor of the strike if it comes to that.

The union says their healthcare workers are concerned about understaffing, patient care and working conditions at Catholic Health hospitals. CWA says, “Catholic Health is refusing to settle a fair contract that will allow the hospital system to attract and retain the workers needed to provide care to Buffalo.”

“We voted to strike if necessary because understaffing is so serious that it is becoming virtually impossible for nurses to provide basic care to patients. As a nurse who has dedicated my life to caring for people, there’s no way I can stand by and let that happen,” said Jackie Ettipio, President of CWA Local 1133.

Catholic Health says its contract with the union expires on September 30.

The healthcare provider filed unfair labor practice charges against the union last week. Catholic Health said the proposals made by CWA in negotiation talks are “predictably unacceptable.”

“The hospital will hire licensed, experienced and vaccinated temporary replacement nurses and qualified healthcare workers to care for patients should the union decide to take associates away from patients during a pandemic,” a Catholic Health spokesperson said last week.

In response to Thursday’s strike authorization Catholic Health says they’re disappointed and that Mercy Hospital will stay open and operating if a strike does in fact happen.

“We are disappointed CWA Local 1133 is threatening to strike at Mercy Hospital. It is unconscionable the union would take registered nurses and other crucial healthcare workers away from patients’ bedsides and out of our hospital to walk the picket line while COVID-19 cases continue to rise in our community,” a Catholic Health spokesperson said.

You can read Catholic Health’s full statement below:

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 satisfaction as evidenced by the latest CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) Hospital Compare star ratings and independent Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades.

We are disappointed CWA Local 1133 is threatening to strike at Mercy Hospital. It is unconscionable the union would take registered nurses and other crucial healthcare workers away from patients’ bedsides and out of our hospital to walk the picket line while COVID-19 cases continue to rise in our community.

Mercy Hospital will remain open and operational if CWA Local 1133 decides to lead associates on strike. A multi-disciplinary team at Mercy Hospital has developed a comprehensive strike contingency plan that includes hiring fully licensed, highly experienced, vaccinated, temporary replacement nurses and other qualified staff who will provide uninterrupted care to our patients.

Many Mercy Hospital associates have been quietly expressing dissatisfaction with their union’s actions and rhetoric against their hospital. They are feeling pressured by CWA leaders and fear union retaliation for challenging its handling of negotiations and threat to strike. Others have shared frustration with CWA that the strike pay it may provide during a strike is only a fraction of the money they would earn caring for patients and performing their jobs.

Mercy Hospital remains committed to bargaining in good faith with our associates’ union to settle these contracts without further delay or disruption as we did recently with the SEIU for other contacts at St. Joseph Campus and two of our long-term care facilities.

With nearly three weeks until the contracts expire on September 30, we believe there is sufficient time to reach fair, market-competitive contracts that will allow us to continue providing safe, high-quality care and service to our patients and competitive wages and benefits to recruit and retain the best associates at Mercy Hospital”

Catholic Health

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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