Tonawanda News

The Town

February 27, 2013

WALKING THE LINE

Tonawanda News — KENMORE — About 100 nurses reported to Kenmore Mercy Hospital Wednesday morning — not to punch in for their jobs — but to stand outside, chant and protest Catholic Health's proposed contract. 

Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO Local 1133, which represents 270 nurses at the hospital, began negotiations with administrators on the contract in November, and a tentative contract was reached at the end of January. 

But 87 percent of all the nurses voted on the contract Feb. 11, and 94 percent turned it down. Deborah Arnet, a nurse at the hospital, said the contract is not being recommended to CWA members. 

"There is a loss of incentives to stay beyond the shift, or to come in on a day off to help out," Arnet said. "There is no progressive wage step, which results in the loss of $20,000 over the life of a contract."

Lori Meder, a nurse who has been at Kenmore Mercy for 7 1/2 years, echoed Arnet's comments. 

"As it stands, they are getting rid of all those things ... so what are they going to take away next?" said Meder, whose husband has been a nurse at the hospital for 15 years. 

And Vanessa Quinn, an executive board member of the CWA representing the hospital, said the nurses' pension is the worst in the Catholic Health system. 

The nurses, and their families, said the problems aren't just about the money, but come down to the hospital's priorities. 

"Our main beef is that we are worried about chronic short staffing ... with these terms, we won't be able to keep nurses, and patient care will suffer," Arnet said. "If they were running into financial trouble, we'd understand, but they're not. They're building a brand new, multi-million dollar building."

But a statement from the hospital says the changes in the contract are in fact a result of increases in health care costs. 

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