Tonawanda News

April 19, 2013

KMH, nurses draft new contract

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — After months of disagreement, a union representing Kenmore Mercy nurses has reached a new tentative agreement with the hospital, a union representative said Thursday. 

“It is a compromise that we can live with,” said Deborah Arnet, a member of the bargaining committee and a nurse at the hospital.

Nurses have been working without a contract since January, when the first tentative agreement was reached. But the union didn’t recommend members ratify the agreement and nurses turned down the contract twice, according to the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO Local 1133, which represents 270 nurses at the hospital. 

Nurses and union officials who were against the contract said the agreement eliminated overtime incentives, a progressive wage step and a health insurance option. But the hospital argued that the cuts were a result of “changes in the healthcare landscape” and were necessary, economic realties. 

After the second vote, the union and hospital administrators met with a federal mediator to discuss the contract’s issues. And on Wednesday, the two sides finally came to a compromise and drafted a new, four-year tentative agreement, Arnet said. 

Under the new agreement, the hospital would reinstate a 2.5 percent raise for the next four years, but that wage step is no longer progressive — unlike terms in the last contract, which expired in January and included a 4 percent raise. 

Supplemental pay for extra hours will also be offered until September. After that a $9 per hour rate on top of the nurse’s base wage will be offered for an emergency fill-in with shifts offered at the hospital’s discretion.

“There is also a reinstatement of emergency paid time off day with some caveats on how it can be used,” Arnet said. “We are recommending this contract to our members.” 

A vote on the contract is scheduled for April 29.