Tag Archives: nurses

Nurses say staffing cuts hurt Ozanam residents


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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While unionized nursing home workers in Bayside continue to cry foul at Ozanam Hall management for what they called damaging staffing policies, a “mystified” local legislator found himself caught in the crossfire.

UFCW Local 342 — the union that represents more than 400 nursing home workers at Ozanam — rallied outside the home on May 18 to draw attention to the decline in resident care. They said Ozanam management has cut staff hours, no longer replaces staffers who call out sick and is pushing to reduce the full-time work week from 37.5 hours to 35.

“The home is neglecting their responsibilities to its residents and its staff,” said Cheryl Van Putten, a nursing assistant at Ozanam for 17 years. “It is not fair for the residents who look to the staff to help and support them each and every day. It is not fair to the staff because it breaks our hearts to see the residents overburdened with exhaustion.”

The union has been negotiating with Ozanam management since 2010 for a new contract. A strike vote had recently been approved by members working at the home, but the union did not disclose further information on the measure.

“The members are willing to do whatever is necessary to maintain proper care for the residents and get what they deserve,” said Kate Meckler, the union’s director of communications.

Ozanam did not return repeated calls for comment. However, administration at the non-profit facility and officials at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn — whose auspices the home runs under — reached out to Senator Tony Avella shortly before the rally.

Avella, who was initially invited to the event, said management and the diocese wanted to give him their side of the story. They told him they felt the facility was well-served and offered to give the senator a tour in the near future, he said.

However, the conversations triggered union representatives to pull Avella’s invite hours before the rally — a move that puzzled the senator.

“I don’t know what to make of it,” Avella said. “I’ve never had a situation like this in all my years of service. If anything, [conversations between management and the diocese] give me a better opportunity to help. Even when I walk the picket line, I always say the best thing is for the two sides to sit and work together.”

Meckler said union reps chose to disinvite Avella because of his “changed positions” in signing a letter to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.

“This press conference was not about the two sides needing to bargain. It was about how this will affect the residents. The whole point was to have a public display of support by signing this letter to the bishop, which is why I invited the senator in the first place,” Meckler said.

Avella said he never stated whether or not he was going to sign the letter and defended allegations made against him by the union of being dissuaded from supporting the workers.

“I don’t ever back off anything if I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Union members should have a fair contract and work under fair working conditions and the clients have to be properly served.”

Flushing nurses rally for benefits


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa

Registered nurses at Flushing Hospital rallied for their own health care in the midst of a heated negotiation deadlock between hospital administration and the union.

“We are the backbone of Flushing,” said Michelle Jones, a nurse practitioner at the hospital for 23 years. “All these nurses here have worked very hard. I feel very angry that it has come to this.”

Jones and about 200 of the hospital’s registered nurses hit the picket line outside the Parsons Boulevard facility on Thursday, January 5 — demanding contracts for health and pension benefits.

According to Mark Genovese, spokesperson for New York State Nurses Association, which represents Flushing’s nurses, they are currently negotiating a new contract with hospital management to improve working conditions, including a “fair salary increase.”

The contract for the hospital’s 350 registered nurses 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.

Flushing Hospital declined to comment on any allegations regarding negotiations.

The nurses — who said they felt “betrayed” — waved signs that read “Flushing Hospital works because RNs do” and “Honk if you love RNs!”
Recent graduate nurse, Mark Viloria, joined in on the protest to support his wife — a registered nurse at Flushing Hospital.

“I’m pretty upset,” he said. “[My wife] has to be here every day, dealing with all this. She’s putting herself in danger every day and she has to pay for her own health compensation? That doesn’t make any sense.”

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.

An interim agreement had not been signed as of January 5.

Still, nurse Georgia Dunn remained optimistic.

“We’ll get it. I definitely feel like we’ll get it,” she said.