UTICA – We could learn today whether Mohawk Valley Health System and the New York State Nurses Association will be able to reach an agreement that will prevent the layoff of more than 400 nurses NYSNA represents at St. Elizabeth Medical Center.
MVHS is furloughing 20 percent of their workforce – about 800 employees – but there’s no furlough language in their contract with NYSNA.
NYSNA released the following statement over the weekend:
“NYSNA is in continuing conversations with the management of St. Elizabeth Medical Center about what a responsible reduction in the workforce could look like. We believe it is irresponsible to furlough essential hospital personnel during a pandemic, especially as the COVID surge is estimated to peak throughout Upstate New York in late May through early June.
It is clear that the management at MVHS are more concerned about their short-term savings than about their nurses and frontline healthcare workers who are battling the COVID-19 pandemic, and whose jobs are a major engine of the local economy. Chief Executive Officer Darlene Stromstad has a history of instituting major salary and benefit cuts at the two previous hospitals she led. Already, MVHS has announced its intention to re-start elective surgeries as soon as April 28. Whether they will have the staff and proper protocols in place to do this safely is unknown.
NYSNA’s contract with St. Elizabeth’s does not contain language about furloughs, which eliminates the previously bargained applicable language that protects our nurses, with a process in place as to how any reductions would occur, whether it be for days, weeks or indefinitely. Along with any workforce reductions, MVHS plans to unilaterally implement a freeze of retirement contributions and tuition reimbursements for all of our members.
NYSNA has offered the employer better alternatives to furloughs or layoffs, including a new program, the Upstate COVID Nurse Corp, which will allow Upstate nurses to volunteer in COVID-19 surge hotspots like NYC, while maintaining healthcare benefits and being paid by Downstate hospitals. Unfortunately, St. Elizabeth’s has not responded to our offer. The Corps program offers a simple solution: let’s save lives helping patients Downstate during the pandemic, save MVHS millions in payroll, and preserve Utica’s community wealth by keeping nurses employed. We hope Darlene Stromstad and MVHS have the same commitment to New York’s health and Utica’s economy.”
By Joleen Ferris / WKTV NewsChannel 2