YOUNGSTOWN - Hospital management on Friday expressed disappointment at Thursday's strike authorization vote by members of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association / Ohio Nurses Association, and outlined for the first time the hospital's position in the contact talks.
''Northside Medical Center is very disappointed to learn that the Ohio Nurses Association is contemplating a strike against our hospital when negotiations are continuing with a federal mediator. Bargaining sessions are scheduled next week,'' hospital spokeswoman Trish Hrina said.
''It is our sincere desire that a mutually acceptable agreement can be reached with the union, but regardless of the outcome of these negotiations, our hospital remains committed to providing quality care for our patients and our community."
The contract is set to expire Thursday, and main sticking points include pay increases, staffing and health care costs, said Eric Williams, president of the 400-member Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association / Ohio Nurses Association.
"The vote gave our negotiating team permission to present a 10-day notice to the hospital if they deem it is appropriate," Williams said. "The notice has not yet been given."
Contract negotiations are set to resume on Wednesday.
Percent raises proposed over three years by nurses' union: 12 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.5 percent.
Percent raises proposed by hospital: 1.25 percent, 1 percent and 1 percent, plus elimination of step increases
"We are working on a one-year extension of a three-year contract," Williams said. "Our members have not had a raise in six years."
Williams said one of the sticking points in the negotiations is the hospital wants the ability to reduce the nurses by up to four shifts without giving any reason.
"Depending on a full-time nurse's schedule, it could affect one-half or more of their pay," Williams said.
The policy would have a greater effect on part-time nurses' pay, he said.
Williams said he does not understand why the hospital is seeking that change of policy, since they are working short of personnel and are bringing in supplemental help nurses to fill shifts.
"We are very scared that we will be working in unsafe working conditions," he said.
In a prepared statement Friday the hospital came out strongly against the union's demands, calling the list of 25 demands, including a 12 percent wage increase this year and an additional 5 percent the next two years, ''stunning.''
The statement said the nurses union has ''refused to budge from its demands.''
Hrina said the hospital has made a wage proposal increase for the next three years but did not detail what that offer is.
Williams has said the hospital is offering to boost annual wages by 1.25 percent, 1 percent and 1 percent, with elimination of the registered nurse wage scale, which means all step increases would be eliminated, the union said.
The company is proposing a wage scale for new nurses that's less than their proposal for current nurses, the union added.
The nurses countered on June 20 with a proposal of 12 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.5 percent.
The two sides are also at odds over staffing levels.
Management said Friday, ''Other organizations are not forced by a union to overstaff their businesses.''
It went on to say the hospital is hoping to develop the ability to ''staff up or down, depending on how many patients are in their care at any given time.''
Calling the proposal ''very standard in union contracts,'' the hospital's proposal allows for times when management can send home nurses who are not needed for a particular shift.
''The ONA's claims that salaries will be drastically cut as a result of call-offs is purposefully an incendiary reaction. The only reason this would happen is if our patient volume was dramatically reduced,'' Hrina said in the statement.
Management went on to describe its fringe benefits offer as ''competitive for our marketplace.''
For health insurance, the hospital pays 70 to 90 percent of the employee's health insurance premium, with a $25 co-pay.
The union said, however, that a management proposal could cut nurses' pay by more than 50 percent in any two-week period, or more because they would face greater cost for health care in some cases, Williams said.