Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Nurses may strike operator of the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital

05.21.10

MAY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Nurses may strike operator of the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 30th- Negotiations between the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Professionals (PASNAP) Union and Community Health Systems (CHS) Inc., which owns and operates the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital located on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre, for a new agreement agreement is moving slowly and the union is considering a job action which includes possibly going on strike.

PASNAP, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, represents approximately 440 nurses employed at the medical center. The Union also represents nurses employed at the Community Medical Center (CMC) on Mulberry Street in Scranton.

The union and the employer have been negotiating for more than twelve months attempting to gain a successor contract agreement. The previous pact expired on August 30th, 2009. The two sides agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the previous contract while negotiations continue for a new pact.

The Tennessee based CHS Inc. is the largest owner of for-profit hospitals in the United States and also operates a facility in Pottsville.

Several of the main issues prohibiting the two sides from reaching an agreement is changes to employee healthcare insurance and staffing levels.

On March 11th, 2010, the Union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Philadelphia alleging CHS Inc. is negotiating in bad faith and violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

“Since on or about September 20th, 2009 and all times thereafter, the above-named employer, by its officers, agents and representatives, has failed and refused to bargain collectively and in good faith with WVNA/PASNAP, a labor organization, designated or selected by a majority of the employees of said employer in an appropriate unit for the purpose of collective bargaining with respect to rates of pay, hours of employment, and other terms and conditions of employment. Since on or about September 20th, 2009, the above-named employer, by its officers, agents and representatives, has interfered with, restrained and coerced its employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the NLRAct.

According to Terry Marcavage, PASNAP Staff Representative, negotiations between the parties are not going well. “It was just the one year anniversary of the takeover of the hosptial by CHS. The relationship between the nurses and the hospital is not good,” said Ms. Marcavage. The company has operated the hospital since May 2009 after purchasing the medical facility for $271 million.

Ms. Marcavage stated it is very possible the only alternative the nurses may have to get a contract is to go on strike. “While patient care comes first, to gain a new contract we may need to go out on strike.”

She stated the union believes CHS contract proposals show the employer is more interested is making more profits than operating a patient caring medical center.

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