Fred Mogul, Reporter, WNYC News
Fred Mogul has been covering healthcare and medicine for WNYC since 2002.
Nurses this week will vote on a proposed settlement with Montefiore Medical Center, potentially concluding a season of tense contract negotiations that had unions at four different hospitals threatening to strike.
Nurses at the other three hospitals — Mt. Sinai, New York-Presbyterian’s Columbia University Medical Center and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt — have already ratified deals. Each union had been without a contract since the start of 2011 and each had voted to authorize a strike, if negotiators deemed the step necessary.
The ratification vote will take place at Montefiore this Thursday and Friday.
Under the proposed contract, Montefiore's nurses would receive a 7.5 percent raise in salary over four years and a pledge from the hospital to hire 125 registered nurses to add to the 2,300 already employed — a roughly 5 percent increase. Staffing levels have been a contentious issue at Montefiore and other hospitals for years, with nurses arguing that they don’t have enough comparably qualified colleagues to share an often heavy burden, and hospitals maintaining that they have an appropriate number of people.
“That’s a very, very important gain, in terms of the quality of patient care and the quality of work life for our members,” said Bernie Mulligan, spokesman for the New York State Nurses Association. NYSNA represents the nurses at all four hospitals.
Rebecca Givan, assistant professor at Cornell University’s Industrial Labor Relations School, said it’s unusual for a hospital to agree to hire such a large number of nurses as part of a contract deal.
“If they had no use for them and they were just going to be sitting around and they weren’t going to be assigned to any shifts, they wouldn’t hire them,” Givan said. “So, it’s definitely an admission that there’s a place for 100 new nurses.”
In contrast, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, agreed to hire 30 nurses as part of the settlement with its 1,300 nurses.
Montefiore declined to comment on the contract talks. Its public relations firm, Sunshine and Sachs, issued a written statement, saying only, "Montefiore is pleased that we were able to reach a fair settlement and can continue to provide top quality care to our patients and community."