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CWA union holds picket, puts pressure on Catholic Health system

The union contends that the hospital system is not bargaining in good faith and seeking too many concessions. They also cite cleanliness issues.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hundreds of health care workers turned out Wednesday afternoon in South Buffalo to show their frustration over what they say are unfair contract negotiations with the Catholic Health system.

Members of the CWA Union Locals 1133 and 1168 together represent over two thousand nurses and other staffers at Mercy, Kenmore Mercy, and St, Joseph's Hospitals and they held an informational picket and rally outside Mercy Hospital to put some pressure on Catholic Health.

They contend that the hospital system is not bargaining in good faith and seeking too many concessions with only a 1 percent raise for their contract offer. 

The union says there are other issues as well with the hospital staff forced to work through the COVID pandemic with short staffing situations. 

That includes the maintenance staff and cleaners, and the union says that impacts the cleanliness and sanitation in the various facilities. Debora Hayes is the Upstate Director with the CWA.

She says, "We do not have enough people in environmental services, and so what I'm hearing from our members is that particularly at Mercy Hospital, that the hospital is dirty and in desperate need of a good cleaning."

Catholic Health sent out a statement in response, saying they are bargaining in good faith and pointing out they did reach agreements with the other SEIU healthcare union at their other hospitals.

The hospital firm maintains the are trying to improve their supply chain to make sure they have more equipment for cleaning.

And on the staffing point, Catholic Health officials say they have hired hundreds more this year but it's difficult to fill all vacancies with the tighter job market and state policies .

This contract expires at the end of September so it remains to be seen if Catholic Health and the CWA can work out these difficult issues.