Flushing Hospital nurses plan protest


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

Registered nurses at Flushing Hospital Medical Center plan to hit the picket line following negotiation stalemates on their health and pension benefits.

“They’re looking for a contract that is fair and that will help the hospital be competitive in a nursing shortage. That entails a fair salary increase — nothing excessive. They’re not looking for anything outrageous,” said Mark Genovese, spokesperson for New York State Nurses Association. “They want to be able to retain health benefits that are affordable and comprehensive, as well as a good pension plan.”

According to Genovese, the nurses are currently negotiating a new contract with hospital management to improve working conditions.

The contract for the hospital’s 350 registered nurses — who are represented by the New York State Nurses Association — expired on December 31. Although health benefits continue 90 days after expiration, Genovese said pension plans ended for good on January 1.

An interim agreement signed by hospital administration would guarantee the continuation of both contracts for six months while the parties continue to negotiate, but Genovese said the hospital would not grant the extension.

“As is standard practice in any labor union, the parties agree to temporarily extend the health and pension benefits while negotiations are going on. It shows courtesy and respect to the employees,” Genovese said. “That’s not the way a hospital wants to conduct itself if it wants to respect its employees, and the nurses will not be used and will not be intimidated.”

According to Michael Hinck, a spokesperson for Flushing Hospital’s parent company MediSys hospital officials are continuing to negotiate with the union.

“We’re hopeful for a quick resolution,” Hinck said.

However, Flushing Hospital declined to comment on any allegations regarding negotiations or extensions.

The nurses will use their designated break time — from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — on January 5 to protest in front of the hospital, located on Parsons Boulevard.

“This has become the focus. This is what they’re really protesting about,” Genovese said about the lack of temporary coverage. “It’s not fair to the nurses. It’s not fair to their families. They need to keep their homes warm in the winter. They need to pay their mortgages. They have families they need to support. Many are single parents or the breadwinners of the family. If you take this away from them, you’re hurting their families and you’re hurting the community.”