BUFFALO, N.Y. — Unionized workers at South Buffalo Mercy Hospital are expected to return to their jobs Wednesday ending their 35-day strike.
Catholic Health says most services curtailed during the walkout, including the emergency room and labor and delivery, will resume Wednesday morning.
Deal Settles Strike
Pay raises, acceptable terms on out of pocket health care costs, and an agreement on staffing ratios were enough for 94% of the members of CWA Local 1133 who voted on a new contract, to approve it, and thus end the strike involving close to 2,000 workers who walked off the job in early October.
Staffing ratios were the biggest hang-up in the negotiations, and even though there's an agreement at hand, the union realizes it may be a while before Catholic Health can meet the terms of the agreement entirely, especially in an already tight healthcare labor market.
"They literally will have to hire hundreds of people," said CWA Upstate Director Deborah Hayes. "To meet the ratio number at Mercy it's approximately 400 people so we know it's going to take time."
The ratios could be met sooner if the hospital reduces its number of beds or services.
The CWA also believes some of their members, who quit their jobs due to working conditions at Mercy, may return with the new terms in place
Healing of Wounds
As anyone associated with a hospital would know, sometimes wounds are slow to heal. However, Hayes believes there are signs that the two sides can put what was at times a bitter labor dispute behind them.
"I got a very nice text message from (Catholic Health CEO) Mark Sullivan this morning," said Hayes. "They want to reestablish a trusting work relationship with CWA and work with us to implement our new contract …and at this point, we can't ask for much more than that."
A Sign of Times To Come?
The terms met to resolve the strike could also have an impact on other bargaining units in the local healthcare landscape.
"The staffing crisis isn't just at Mercy Hospital," said, said Cori Anne Gambini, RN, President of CWA Local 1168, which represents workers at Kaleida Health.
Kaleida operates Western New York healthcare facilities including Buffalo General, Millard Fillmore Suburban, and Oishei Children's Hospitals.
Gambini noted that CWA Local 1168's contract with Kaleida expires at the end of May 2022, which is just over six months from now.
"So we're already meeting with our CWA negotiating team and will be at the bargaining table first of the year," she said.