Hospital nurses picket over contract impasse, coronavirus concerns
Taken from NJ.com
June 25, 2020
Nurses at Salem Medical Center in Mannington Township held an informational picket in front of the hospital Thursday to highlight what they describe as a lack of progress in contract negotiations.
The nearly 140 nurses represented by Health Professionals & Allied Employees Local 5142 are seeking fair wages, safer nurse-to-patient ratios and they want hospital operator Community Healthcare Associates LLC to honor earlier commitments on accrued paid time off, according to Local 5142 President Karen Masusock.
Masusock, who works as an ICU nurse at Salem, described a range of issues between RNs and management, including low pay, loss of veteran nurses and shortcomings with how the organization is responding to the coronavirus pandemic — claims the hospital denied.
The non-profit CHA, based in North Jersey, bought the hospital and took over operations in 2019.
Prior to the company actually coming in, Local 5142 approved its first-ever contract, a one-year agreement, with CHA after trying unsuccessfully to strike a deal with the previous owner for several years.
All seemed rosy at first, but CHA then said it would not honor existing accruals for sick and vacation time, according to Masusock.
“The collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the new owner kept existing time-off accruals,” Masusock said. “They even signed the collective bargaining agreement that had all of that information in it. Some nurses had up to 400 hours of sick time accrued.”
The union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the issue and a hearing is slated for this summer.
Hospital officials disputed the union’s claim on Thursday.
The union and staff were told during a series of town hall meetings before CHA acquired the hospital that “new ownership was not going to adopt the former owner’s sick and vacation time accruals, but rather adopt a new program, which it did,” according to a statement by hospital CEO Dr. Tammy Torres. “(Salem Medical Center’s) actions were totally consistent with its presentations to the union and at its town hall meetings to our employees prior to the transfer of ownership.”