WARREN - Registered nurses at Trumbull Memorial Hospital have ratified a new labor agreement that gives them raises each year for three years.
Debbie Bindas, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees staff rep for about 487 registered nurses at TMH, said the nurses seem satisfied with the pact that was ratified in recent weeks and was retroactive to Nov. 1.
The deal eliminated step increases that have been frozen since the hospital's former owner, Forum Health, declared bankruptcy several years ago, but gives the RNs raises of 2.5 percent the first year and 2 percent for each of the last two years.
One of the main sticking points in talks at sister hospital Northside Medical Center, nurse furlough days based on patient volume, also was hammered out satisfactorily for both sides at TMH.
''We did agree on one day per month they could take you off the schedule on a rotation,'' Bindas said. ''But they have to go through a whole lot of steps.''
Bindas said hospital operator Tennessee-based Community Health Services initially proposed four to six furlough days per month based on patient volume, but the sides were able to come to an agreement. She noted a previous contract had allowed voluntary furloughs, but this is the first time mandatory furloughs can be used.
Bindas said so far the hospital has not used the furlough option, largely because the hospital is short-staffed on RNs and actually is in a hiring mode. She said about 20 RNs were hired in the past month.
Health insurance benefits will change, but the cost for participants will remain the same, she said.
Bindas said the sides met about eight times, including a marathon 17-hour bargaining session the final day of the expiring contract before reaching the tentative pact Nov. 1.
''We worked three hours without a contract. We just stuck to it,'' she said.
Messages seeking comment from hospital spokeswomen for TMH and Northside were not immediately returned Monday.
Meanwhile, about 400 nurses at Youngstown's Northside Medical Center, also a Community Health Services-owned facility, continue to work without a contract.
Northside's Ohio Nurses Association president Eric Williams said Monday the sides last met only briefly in early November. No new talks are scheduled.
Williams said there has been little progress on reaching a labor agreement, and noted wages, salary and furlough days are among the sticking points. He declined to discuss the possibility of any work stoppages, but said ''all options are on the table.''
Williams said last week's announcement that Community Health Services, has declared it would be doling out about $23 million in a special cash dividend of 25 cents per share for common shareholders, is an indication that the hospital can afford to treat its staff fairly.
''It certainly provides all the reasons in the world for why we should be treated fairly. We should3n't be held hostage,'' Williams said. ''They are not denying that they are profitable. They just don't seem to want to share it with us.''
CHS also owns and operates Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland. The company took over ownership of the former Forum Health system in 2010, purchasing it out of bankruptcy.
The labor contract for Hillside Nurses union, Ohio Nurses Association, will expire March 31. A message left seeking comment from the Hillside Nurses union officer was not immediately returned Monday.
The labor contract for non-nursing staff at TMH and Hillside, represented by AFSCME, also will expire March 31.
CHS is one of the largest publicly-traded hospital companies in the U.S. and a leading operator of general acute-care hospitals in non-urban and mid-size markets throughout the country, including 135 hospitals in 29 states.