CVPH nurses’ union authorizes strike, hospital to meet with members | News

PLATTSBURGH — New York State Nurses Association members at the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday in support of authorizing a strike that could disrupt the hospital’s operations, as calls for a new contract escalate.

The union said more than 85% of its members at CVPH participated in the strike authorization vote, with 92% of them voting in favor of a strike if needed.

‘WE WANT A CONTRACT’

Speaking outside of the hospital Committee on strike the authorization Thursday, Bobbi Otis, a registered nurse and co-chair at CVPH, said a would have a noticeable effect the hospital if union members multiple disciplines at CVPH decide to strike .

“It definitely will put a massive wrench in the systems at CVPH,” Otis said of a potential strike, which could include nurses, physician assistants, nutritionists, pharmacists, laboratory staff and more.

But disruption is something Otis said members are trying to avoid.

“It’s not something we want to do. We want a contract,” she said. “This is not where we wanted to be at all. We want to come to work and take care of our patients.”

SLAMS COST CUTTING

NYSNA said its members at CVPH have been without a contract for two years, even as the hospital’s parent network, the University of Vermont Health Network, has operated at a profit, received infusions of federal dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic and are more than $3 million over budget for travel nursing staff, according to the union.

At issue for union members at CVPH, they said, is a dwindling number of full-time employees being replaced with temporary traveling staff, excessive corner cutting to save money, services being discontinued and subpar pay and benefits. Members say that has all led to worse healthcare for the community and dangerous conditions for employees.

The union is calling on the UVM Health Network to dip into its $1.1 billion in cash reserves to meet its demands.

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Otis said that if CVPH decided not to bargain in good faith, the strike would go forward. She added that union members would make themselves available for negotiations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We’re available to come to the table, any time day or night,” Otis said. “This is literally sitting on CVPH’s doorstep. This is up to Michelle LeBeau and the executives at CVPH to come forward and do what they say they are going to do.”

LEBEAU RESPONDS

On Thursday, LeBeau, the president of the Alice Hyde Medical Center and CVPH, said the hospital would meet union members following their strike vote.

“After two years of negotiations with NYSNA, health insurance remains the biggest barrier to reaching a collective bargaining agreement that values ​​all our employees, lays the groundwork for a strong future and finally gives our NYSNA-represented employees the wage that reward them for their hard work and commitment to our patients,” LeBeau said in a press release.

LeBeau said in upcoming bargaining sessions, CVPH hopes NYSNA and the hospital agree on a plan to transition union members to UVM Health Network’s insurance, similar to a contract the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 ratified on Wednesday, which approved a two-year contact with an 18% wage increase and a transition to UVM health plans, LeBeau said.

falba@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @byfernandoalba

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