YOUNGSTOWN - All permanent Northside Health Center nurses were back on the job Monday after what the union is terming a "selective lockout" ended.
The nurses returned amid a rally held by hundreds of nurses and community members who gathered in support outside the hospital before sunrise Monday.
"Youngstown nurses are happy to be back in the hospital looking after our patients," said Eric Williams, president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, a local unit of the Ohio Nurses Association. He said the move served "no healthcare purpose and only served to punish nurses for exercising their rights."
Many of the hospital's nurses were banned from returning to work after a planned one-day unfair labor practice strike a week ago. The hospital said the nurses' positions were being filled by temporary workers brought on for a three-day engagement during the strike.
The same day workers returned to duty, Northside CEO Kirk Ray met with local Democratic state Reps. Robert Hagan and Ron Gerberry. Hagan of Youngstown and Gerberry of Austintown recently sent letters to hospital management urging a return to the bargaining table.
Following Monday's meeting, Hagan said both Ray and representatives of the nurses union have said the sides are very close to an agreement, and the differences are not financial issues. Hagan expressed disappointment at what he said appears to be the hospital's unwillingness to return to the bargaining table.
"I was very disappointed in his inability to understand that we were there to help," Hagan said. He said he urged local representation from the Tennessee-owned hospital at the table.
Hospital management responded by saying a local labor relations director has bargained in good faith, meeting face-to-face on more than 20 occasions with the nurses.
Management said the company's final offer includes a 2.5 percent wage increase for all of the hospital's RNs, a medical benefit plan and processes for staffing the hospital according to the volume and needs of patients.
ONA leaders said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown also called Williams over the weekend to discuss the issue. Earlier this month, Brown also had offered to help facilitate continued bargaining.
Nurses have said they are willing to negotiate anytime. The sides last met at the bargaining table Sept. 11.
The hospital reiterated its commitment to the community and stressed there are no plans to close.