Nurses hope to return to table

YOUNGSTOWN – Despite the intent to strike vote and Tuesday’s overwhelming defeat of the latest labor contract offer, nurses at Northside Medical Center said they are still hoping to stay on the job and get back to the task of negotiating a labor agreement.

Union officials with the Ohio Nurse Association said they sent a letter Wednesday to hospital management making a formal request to return to the table as soon as possible. As of late Wednesday, they said they had not yet received a response.

The 430 registered nurses represented by the Youngstown General Duty Nurse Association / Ohio Nurse Association on Tuesday voted to turn down the hospital’s latest offer, termed by hospital officials as its “final offer.”

A company spokeswoman said the hospital is committed to continue working productively together.

“Our registered nurses are valued colleagues who play a critical role in our work to provide patients with quality, personalized care,” said Trish Hrina, vice president of marketing for ValleyCare Health System of Ohio.

“While it is unfortunate not to have resolution with the ONA, we are committed to continuing in a productive, mutually beneficial and respectful relationship with all of our employees,” she said.

Nurses have been working for about a year without a labor contract. Union leaders have said one of the key factors in holding out is a hospital plan in which nurses could be told not to come in or sent home on short notice when patient numbers dip. Nurses could be called back if patient count rises.

The hospital has called the plan “standard practice across the hospital industry” and points out four other local bargaining units in the hospital system have ratified labor agreements in the past year with similar terms.

Late last week the hospital announced it would lay off 77 full-timers or their equivalent, including about seven RNs represented by the ONA.

The hospital system cited national ”health care reform,” ”federal budget sequestration” and ”legislative mandates.”

The cuts came just weeks after administrators broke ground for a $20 million expansion at Northside aimed at adding new technology and attracting more patients, which union leaders claim is the real key to solving the hospital’s financial problems.