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Strike underway at Mercy Hospital, CWA and Catholic Health fail to reach agreement

In a statement just before 5 a.m., Catholic Health said the CWA bargaining committee walked out of negotiations.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — After 18 straight days of negotiations, Catholic Health and CWA Local 1133 failed to reach an agreement overnight, triggering a strike at South Buffalo Mercy Hospital.

Both CWA negotiators and Catholic Health said they would work late into the night to try and reach an agreement, but remained too far apart on several topics.

In a statement just before 5 a.m., Catholic Health said, "Despite Catholic Health hospitals’ best efforts to settle negotiations with CWA, early Friday morning CWA’s bargaining committee walked out of negotiations. Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Kenmore Mercy Hospital, and St. Joseph Campus were unable to reach an agreement with CWA for six labor contracts covering approximately 2,200 registered nurses and service, technical and clerical associates. As a result, CWA will take workers at Mercy Hospital on strike beginning at 6 a.m."

Mark Sullivan, CEO of Catholic Health spoke with reporters at 6:30 a.m. saying, "This morning the CWA 1133 made the decision to go on strike and take 2,000 of its workers from Mercy Hospital away from the patients' bedside into the street to picket."

Sullivan went on to say that services have been restricted at Mercy Hospital out of "an abundance of caution." Some of the services that are being limited include elective surgeries, as well as services in the labor and delivery department.

CWA leaders spoke with 2 On Your Side early Friday morning outside South Buffalo Mercy Hospital.

A representative from CWA told us, "We spoke to the hospital before we left and let them know that we would be willing to get back to the bargaining table whenever they are ready. There were some productive discussions that occurred over the last couple of days but unfortunately it just turned out to be too little too late."

In a press release, CWA officials said Catholic Health made it impossible to provide its patients the attention and care that they deserve.

"Going on strike was the most difficult decision we have had to make in our careers, but we must do right by our community," said Linda Bain, registered nurse. "It is our life’s mission to give our friends, family and neighbors the care and support they deserve, and walking off the job is now the only option to force Catholic Health to listen. We are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from Buffalo residents and call on Catholic Health to put the patients first."

Out-of-pocket costs for health insurance remained a sticking point late Thursday with most, but not all, premiums remaining unchanged for the over 2,000 contracted union members. Another point of contention has been CWA's demand for staffing ratios. According to a union update posted at 7 p.m. Thursday, the duration of the contract was still in question with the union pushing for a three-year deal, while Catholic Health wanted four-years.

Progress had been made in regards to wages.  However, with an average raise of almost 4.5% for RNs in the first year and more than 8% for some other workers.

Ten days ago the union notified the healthcare company its strike would begin after the 6 a.m. shift change on October 1. To keep the hospital running, Catholic Health said last Friday it had wired several million dollars to the hiring agency Huffmaster, which specializes in supplying staff to healthcare providers during strikes. That temporary staff has been standing in the event of a strike.