Jan 6, 2023 - Economy

NYC hospitals brace for potential nurse strike amid salary, staffing negotiations

Photo of a masked person holding a sign that says "Patients First" at a rally protesting staffing shortages

Nurses at Brooklyn VA Medical Center and veterans hold a rally to protest staffing shortages on Aug. 31, 2022. Photo: Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New York City is gearing up for a potential strike on Monday as roughly 10,000 nurses push for higher salaries and better working conditions, AP reports.

Why it matters: The onset of the pandemic exacerbated the health risks, staffing shortages and burnout that weigh on healthcare workers — to the point of threatening patient care.

  • The conflict between New York City's major hospitals and their nurses is part of a nationwide movement that has seen a slew of healthcare workers launch strikes across the U.S.

Details: The New York State Nurses Association, comprised of roughly 42,000 union members, gave the hospitals 10 days' notice of an intended strike on Dec. 30. Their contracts expired on Dec. 31.

  • The Flushing Hospital Medical Center reached a tentative agreement with nurses on Friday while negotiations continue with Montefiore Medical Center and the BronxCare Health System, AP reports.
  • But negotiations with Mount Sinai appeared to fall through on Friday. The union said management walked away from the bargaining table during a discussion on salary, per AP.
  • Union leaders have said they hope to avoid striking, which is set to start Monday if no agreement is reached.

What they're saying: "New York City hospitals have violated our trust through years of understaffing, and that understaffing has only gotten worse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic," union President Nancy Hagans said at a press briefing Friday. "It’s time they ... deliver the safe staffing standards that nurses and our patients deserve."

  • "Striking is always a last resort. We’ve done everything we could to avoid a strike — and we will keep working toward a fair union contract," Matt Allen, the union's director at large and a nurse at Mount Sinai, wrote in an opinion for the New York Daily News.
  • "Management has pushed us to the breaking point by refusing to listen to the alarms we’ve been sounding about chronic understaffing that puts our patients at risk."

The other side: Mount Sinai said in a statement Friday that its offer included a wage increase totaling 19.1% compounded over three years and that it was comparable to the union's tentative agreement with the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

  • "Unfortunately, we remain at an impasse over the union leadership’s demand for a significant wage increase beyond what was agreed to at other hospitals."
  • The hospital added that it has canceled some elective surgeries and is transferring some patients from its flagship hospital and two affiliates in anticipation of the strike.

The big picture: COVID-19 and its aftereffects have triggered a mass exodus of healthcare workers and led those who remain to organize and demand workplace changes.

  • National Nurses United, a labor union comprised of more than 175,000 members across the country, organized several strikes in January to push the hospital industry to "invest in safe staffing."
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