CWA, 1199SEIU Unions Will Not Extend Current Healthcare Worker Contract After July 31 DeadlineJuly 30, 2022
For Immediate Release:
Union members call on state to increase funding for Kaleida to afford a fair contract, recruit, retain workers
Buffalo, NY – Kaleida healthcare workers represented by CWA and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East announced Friday they will not be extending their contract past the Sunday, July 31st deadline following two previous extensions. Citing the strong progress that has been made in the last four months of bargaining, committee members instead plan to meet five days a week with Kaleida representatives beginning Monday, August 1, to reach a fair contract for workers as soon as possible.
Union members at Kaleida are committed to fighting for better staffing levels, job security, fair wage increases, and dignity and respect on the job. In a survey last month, an overwhelming 97% of Kaleida Health workers with the unions agreed that the hospital system is having trouble retaining employees. Providing current and incoming future staff with competitive wages and benefits is a key concern for bargaining committee members.
“Not having an extension gives us maximum leverage we need to settle this contract,” said Jim Scordato, Vice-President, 1199SEIU WNY Hospital Division. “We need to move quickly to support workers facing exhaustive conditions. For the last three years workers have been dealing with COVID-19 and during that time Kaleida Health has faced unprecedented losses and revenue. New York State needs to recognize the struggles of hospitals in the Western New York area and work with us to find a solution to the losses sustained that are crippling our hospital systems and impacting the quality of care we are able to provide.”
Kaleida’s economic losses could be key to negotiations for healthcare workers. In 2021, Kaleida reported $26 million dollars in losses, even after Federal Pandemic Relief. In 2020, Kaleida reported a loss of $87 million. In this year alone, Kaleida spent more than $97 million on travel nurses and agency workers. Healthcare workers are demanding Kaleida invest in creating good, union jobs for workers local to western New York through their contract. Negotiations next week will focus on a comprehensive economic package presented by the unions that will incentivize healthcare workers with institutional knowledge to stay, and attract desperately needed new staff with fair wages and good benefits.
Union members also say that the state must provide more funding to Kaleida for the hospital system to be able to come to the bargaining table with a proposal that will work for their staff. Bargaining committee members from both sides of the table have agreed to work together to urge the state to earmark additional needed funding to support its healthcare workers in Buffalo.
“Our members will not settle for anything less than an economic package that financially supports current staff, and leaves room to attract and retain the workers the hospital system desperately needs,” said CWA District 1 Area Director Debbie Hayes. “In order for that to happen, Kaleida needs to make a strong case to the state for more funding. Bargaining is in a good place, and we all want to reach an agreement, but considering Kaleida’s current financial position, there is no way we can accept a contract without more funding from the state.”
Safe staffing levels is also a primary concern for union members, who say healthcare workers are overwhelmed and exhausted working in units that are egregiously understaffed. They caution that Kaleida’s reliance on travel nurses is not sustainable, and in order to solve the staffing crisis for the long-term and remain a best-in-care provider, Kaleida must offer enforceable safe staffing levels, as well as increased wages and a strong benefits package, to attract healthcare workers and allow them to live and raise their families in Buffalo.
To meet New York State’s staffing law, Kaleida must hire an additional 436 workers, but caregivers say it’s not enough considering there are more than 800 vacancies. In addition, this legislation does not cover non-clinical hospital staff. The unions have cited Kaleida’s total rejection of their proposal around increased staffing for non-clinical workers as a major sticking point holding up negotiations, and will not agree to a contract that does not include safe staffing provisions for service, clerical, professional and technical workers.
“Kaleida must offer a fair and competitive contract that recruits local workers to fill more than 1,200 vacancies, rather than spending millions on travel and agency workers,” said Cori Gambini, a Registered Nurse and President of CWA Local 1168. “Our hospitals need a strong investment from New York State to ensure funding that supports proper staffing levels, enables healthcare workers to deliver the best care, and incentivizes more people to live and work in Buffalo.”
Union Healthcare Workers at Kaleida Health are located at three major hospitals, two nursing homes, and clinics across Western New York including: Buffalo General Medical Center, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, HighPointe on Michigan, DeGraff Medical Park and various community-based clinics.
Union members work as Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Dietary Workers, Personal Care Attendants, Professionals, Technicians, Service & Maintenance Workers, Clerical Workers and more.
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.