A scheduled strike at Flushing Hospital was averted following the resuscitation of negotiations between management and the union.
“The leadership of Flushing Hospital Medical Center is pleased to announce that a tentative agreement was reached,” the hospital said in a statement.
According to management, a three-year agreement — which will extend through December 2014 — is expected to be ratified soon by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), which represents Flushing’s nurses.
The hospital’s 420 registered nurses had threatened to walk off the job on February 7 following fruitless pickets and disputes over “unfair” contract negotiations between hospital management.
Now, the crisis has been averted, much to the relief of local elected officials.
“Nurses have a tough enough job. They should not have to worry about their day-to-day health and pension benefits,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “Now they can go back to work and have some peace of mind, which is a win not only for the nurses and management, but also the entire community that relies on the care and health services of Flushing Hospital every day.”
According to Mark Genovese, a NYSNA spokesperson, the union has been negotiating a new contract with hospital management to improve working conditions, including a “fair salary increase” since contracts expired on December 31. Although health benefits continue 90 days after expiration, Genovese said pension plans ended for good on January 1.
Among many things, Genovese said part of what incensed the union prior to the tentative agreement was hospital management’s plans to have registered nurses pay more for their health insurance, which he said would total about an additional $4,800 per year.
He also said they are demanding givebacks in pension plans, essentially dropping the nurses to a lower level of health care in which “the benefits would be less and the costs would be more.” Genovese said the nurses would lose out on about $150,000 in lost retirement income over a lifetime.
Further details on the newest agreement will not be available until after the ratification vote, hospital management said.