Healthcare workers at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen and the Harborage, a long-term care facility at the Palisades campus voted to authorize concerted job action if Hackensack Meridian continues to stall during negotiations. Members at Cooper University Hospital in Camden and Salem Medical Center in Salem have also voted also authorized actions.
So have HPAE members at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, whose bargaining committee is meeting resistance from the employer over health and safety issues.
All contracts expire in May or June.
HPAE President Debbie White, RN, said members of the union have confronted serious health and safety issues on the job in this past year that must be addressed at the negotiating table.
“If this coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we cannot be cavalier about the lives of the workers on the front lines, White said. “As we have seen, a haphazard response can be fatal. It is imperative to develop a plan that has input from healthcare workers going forward that will put the health and safety of our members at the forefront.”
Unfortunately, these employers have been resistant, she said.
HPAE Local 5142 President Christa Saracino said owners of Salem Medical Center, who have historically stalled negotiations in the past, have continued to be stubborn in negotiating a new contract with registered nurses.
All nursing care units are chronically understaffed, which has led to a higher than normal turnover. Another factor in nurse departures is a considerably lower wage scale: Salem nurses are not as well-paid as nurses in other hospitals in their region of the state.
“Our members are facing unsafe staffing situations throughout the hospital,” Saracino said. “On the Medical-Surgical floor, nurses are being forced to work with patients with high acuity levels because of insufficient staffing in the intensive care unit. They need to work with us so we can find solutions to the lower-pay, low morale, and generally poor working conditions in this hospital.”
Palisades Medical Center, owned by Hackensack Meridian Health, was the epicenter of staff infections during the peak of the pandemic.
Two HPAE members—Transport Aide Alfredo Pabatao and HPAE Local 5030 vice-president Nancy Martell, a Patient Care Technician—both contracted the virus on the job and died of the disease. A third worker, a security guard who is not a member of HPAE, also died from a workplace COVID infection.
After receiving many OSHA citations and fines for not protecting workers, Hackensack Meridian continues to be subject to further OSHA investigation. Unfortunately, the bargaining team is not seeing proposals from the employer that address the severity of these charges.
“We don’t want to bury and mourn for any more of our co-workers,” HPAE Local 5030 president Lorna “Mickie” Miquiabas said. “I just wonder what it will take to get their attention. We are serious about wanting a partnership in dealing with the current and future infectious disease outbreaks so we don’t lose dedicated co-workers who are risking their health and their families’ health to continue to care for patients.”
Fore more information, contact: Michael Allen, (646) 436-7556