Last contract expired more than 17 months ago

Last updated: September 03. 2014 11:48PM - 951 Views
By Joe Sylvester jsylvester@civitasmedia.com

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More than a year after the last contract expired, the union representing registered nurses at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital reached a tentative contract agreement Tuesday night with Community Health Systems, the for-profit owner of the hospital.

The Wyoming Valley Nurses Association, the local of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, will hold ratification meetings for union members throughout the day Friday, when the nurses will hear the agreement’s details.

“No details of the terms of the settlement will be made public until then,” read a statement the union released on Wednesday.

Local union members and leaders will answer questions about the agreement on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the PASNAP Union Office at 2007 Highway 315, in Jenkins Township.

Hospital spokeswoman Renita Fennick confirmed the agreement and released the following statement:

“Wilkes-Barre General Hospital has reached a new tentative agreement with the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals. The agreement requires ratification by the nurses represented by PASNAP. Details will be shared with the membership at ratification voting meetings to be conducted by the union.”

The new agreement will replace the contract that had expired more than 17 months ago, on April 30, 2013, and follows a five-day strike by the nurses in early July of this year. PASNAP represents more than 5,000 nurses and health professionals throughout Pennsylvania and 450 nurses at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.

The nurses had been working under the terms of the two-year contract that expired in 2013. Some of the points of contention during the negotiations since included salary; longevity raises; health care coverage changes without union input and staffing.

The nurses also held a 24-hour strike from Dec. 23 to 24 in 2010. They reached an agreement on May 3, 2011 for the two-year pact.

On Dec. 3, 2013, the union held a 24-hour strike and members were locked out two more days while temporary workers staffed their shifts.

After the five-day walkout in July, Federal Labor Relations Board heard testimony in a complaint against the hospital. The case is the result of a complaint filed by the labor board alleging the hospital acted in bad faith while negotiating a contract between the hospital and the union, which — among other things — alleges hospital officials denied or delayed in producing documents the union clams are necessary for effective bargaining.

In addition to receiving complete staffing documents, union officials insist the hospital should restore pay raises that were suspended when the contract expired. Neither party made closing arguments but rather opted to file briefs by Sept. 17.

If found guilty, any monetary reward would be in the form of back pay to employees for time lost filling union duties or attending court proceedings. The judge also could decide to require the hospital to pay the wage increases.

CHS owns, operates or leases 206 hospitals in 29 states and is the largest publicly traded hospital company in the country.

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