Nurses union authorizes strike vote amid strain over working conditions in coronavirus crisis
Taken from NJ.com
By Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
May 21, 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to burden the healthcare system, a union representing 1,500 nurses at two shore hospitals took the first step Friday toward authorizing a strike should contract negotiations with Hackensack Meridian Health fail.
The nurses at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin voted to allow the union bargaining committees “to call a strike or another form of concerted activity” if they are unable to reach an agreement, Health Professionals and Allied Employees announced.
The union is seeking weekly meetings with management to discuss the availability of protective equipment in case the virus returns aggressively, as many public health experts have predicted, HPAE President Debbie White said.
The contract expires on May 31.
“As we head into a busy holiday weekend, we have concerns that there could be a spike even sooner if people aren’t observing the strictest social distancing protocols,” White said. “Our nurses had a desperate need for PPE during this pandemic and were not well protected. Adding insult to injury, while many of them got sick and some died, employers were disciplining healthcare workers for persisting in discussing their safety concerns on the job.”
A Hackensack Meridian Health spokeswoman issued a statement calling HPAE’s decision to take a strike vote “fairly common.”
“Hackensack Meridian Health is engaged in ongoing discussions with HPAE and will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach a new contract. We would prefer to settle these negotiations without unnecessary disputes or delays,” according to the statement. “Should HPAE choose otherwise, we have a comprehensive strike contingency plan so our patients will continue to receive the safe, quality care they expect from Hackensack Meridian Health.”