BREAKING: CWA, 1199SEIU Members Ratify Historic 3-Year Contract with Kaleida HealthOctober 13, 2022
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New agreement makes major strides to address staffing crisis, including adding 500 new positions, daily staffing incentive bonuses, and a minimum 12% wage increase over three years for all workers.
Improved wages for all workers and increased salary steps for Registered Nurses will position Kaleida to recruit and retain workers amid a national shortage, avoiding costly travel nurses.
Union leaders will be available to provide comments on Friday, Oct. 14, at 11:00 am at 1199SEIU headquarters - 2421 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14214.
Buffalo, NY – Today, Kaleida Health union nurses, clinical, professional, technical, service, dietary, and clerical staff represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East voted to ratify a new 3-year contract with the largest hospital system in WNY. The collective bargaining agreement includes industry-leading wages and safe staffing ratios. The agreement will cover over 6,300 union healthcare workers at Buffalo General Medical Center, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, HighPointe on Michigan, DeGraff Medical Park, and various community-based clinics. Of the members who voted, 91% from 1199SEIU and 74% from CWA Local 1168 and were in favor of ratification.
In a major victory towards solving Kaleida’s staffing crisis, the unions secured the addition of 500 full-time equivalent positions, both clinical and non-clinical, along with improved incentives for all open shifts, with automatic bonus on any open weekend shift. Staffing incentive bonuses will range from $15 to $30 per hour depending on job title. Per the contract, health insurance for newly hired employees starts after 30 days. Kaleida will also create two new unionized positions in order to oversee safe staffing ratios and ensure they are adhered to, and to facilitate the improvement of working conditions within its hospitals.
Over the next three years, all union members will receive a compounded minimum 12% general wage increase as well as increases to pensions based on years of service. Notably, the bargaining committee made no concessions. Even when Kaleida demanded changes and cuts to work health insurance coverage, the committee pushed to protect members’ and prioritize patient care and won.
“This contract is a huge win for our members who have been struggling to care for patients amidst serious staffing issues and a nationwide worker shortage. We fought hard to ensure there were no compromises made, which is a testament to the tireless efforts of our members whose top priority has always been their patients,” said Cori Gambini, President, CWA Local 1168 and a Registered Nurse. “We worked to strengthen loop-holes in the contract, making sure to reinforce the intent of the language for our members. After years of dealing with a pandemic and learning from it, we made sure to include pandemic-specific language that creates a committee to address any health, safety, and preparedness to protect our members.”
“After eight months of intense bargaining, we were able to bring back to our members one of the best labor contracts in Western New York. With the ratification of this agreement, we have set a new standard in wages and benefits in the healthcare industry in our area,” said Jim Scordato, 1199SEIU Vice-President for WNY Hospitals. “We want to commend our member-led bargaining team who made a commitment to long hours and long weeks, sacrificing time away from their families to win such a strong contract for themselves, their colleagues, and ultimately their patients. Without their dedication and perseverance, this would not have been possible.”
“Congratulations to our members on the ratification of this agreement with Kaleida. I am proud to say we made no concessions and won an excellent contract that will allow us not only to retain the workers we have now, but to recruit the talented staff we desperately need in the hospital system,” said CWA Area Director Debora Hayes. “After years of fighting for safe staffing, this contract is historic in terms of the strength of its staffing language and stipulations. We are confident the ratios included in this agreement will allow our members to get back to doing their jobs without fighting against the never-ending current of understaffing. Not only were we able to negotiate ratios for direct caregivers, but we also negotiated additional full-time equivalents for our members in our professional, technical, clerical and service units.”
“We know that the only way to stop staffing levels from further deteriorating and build our workforce back up is a union contract that puts patients' and workers’ well-being first, and I look forward to the implementation of the strong staffing ratios and benefits in this contract,” said Katie Perna, Registered Nurse at MSFH. “Not only will we become the highest paid healthcare workers in our area, but we will also be able to provide a level of care that we have not delivered since before the start of the pandemic.”
“In the wake of a potential strike, we stood together in our collective union families and demanded that Kaleida Health invest in a contract that shows respect for their workforce and the patients who are at the core of their business. We knew we had to keep fighting in order for us to continue taking care of the greater Buffalo community, and we’re looking forward to getting to work with the benefits and improvements that will come with this new contract,” said Tasha Johnson, Medical Assistant at Oishei Children’s Hospital.
In addition to improved wages and benefits, union workers also won two additional paid holidays, including Martin Luther King Day and Juneteenth. To help create a work-life balance, Kaleida agreed to create shorter work shifts. Dozens of professional, clerical, and technical workers secured job upgrades which keeps Kaleida competitive among wages in the area. Clerical and service workers hired after 2011 were moved to a new scale, while service workers hired before 2011 will receive up to $1,500 annual bonus each year of the contract.
Amid a national nursing shortage, Kaleida agreed to reduce the use of travel nurses by increasing the number of permanent nursing positions through the NYS Clinical Staffing Committees. They also agreed to improve step-pay for existing nurses ranging from $1.90/hr to $3.26/hr and an increase in night shift differential.
Advanced Practice Providers secured language to protect their jobs when providing care in the hospitals and clinical settings. “A nurse practitioner is required to have a collaborating agreement signed by the doctor they work with in order to practice,” said Kim Utech, Nurse Practitioner. “When doctors pulled the agreement, we lost our privileges to work at Kaleida. With the new contract language, this can no longer happen,” said Utech.
Last month, nurses, professionals, clinical, technical, service, dietary and clerical workers at Kaleida Health, who are represented by CWA Local 1168 and 1199SEIU, overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike if no agreement could be reached. Of union members who voted, 96% were in favor. Having already extended their contract twice after six months of bargaining, union workers demanded that Kaleida, the largest private employer in Western New York, do more to address the understaffing crisis in their hospitals. During bargaining, the unions called on Kaleida to invest in recruiting and retaining workers to fill more than 800 open job vacancies, in addition to adding more positions to meet staffing ratios agreed upon under New York State’s new clinical staffing committee law.
“Being on the frontlines of patient care and seeing how it has been affected by short staffing, we were prepared to go on strike to make it clear we were not going to accept any compromises. It was a last resort and I’m glad it didn’t come to that. Now, with this new contract, our voices were heard and we can continue to provide the quality of care our patients deserve,” said Charles Williams, Patient Care Assistant at Buffalo General Medical Center.
The agreement runs from June 1, 2022 to May 31, 2025.
The Communications Workers of America represents 300,000 working people nationally in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, and manufacturing. https://www.cwa1168.org
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. https://www.1199seiu.org