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Auditor General DePasquale audit indicates lack of Act 102 law enforcement


MAY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Auditor General DePasquale audit indicates lack of Act 102 law enforcement


REGION, May 5th - Pennsylvania Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale audit released on April 22nd indicated that enforcement by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s (DOL) law to protect healthcare workers from excessive mandatory overtime was poor and his findings came as no surprise to Terry Marcavage, Staff Representative of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) union in Conshohocken, just outside of Philadelphia. PASNAP represents nurses at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

The Union was involved with a long protracted labor dispute with the operators of the medical facility, the Commonwealth Health System (CHS) Inc., the nation’s largest for profit conglomerate of hospitals in the nation. CHS also operates the Regional Hospital of Scranton, formerly the Scranton Mercy Hospital, the Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton and the Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock. The company also owns and operates several smaller medical facilities in the region.

PASNAP represented nurses employed at the Wilkes-Barre General Hosptial bargained with the company for more than sixteen months without gaining a successor collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with CHS and was forced to strike for several days last July. The company responded by hiring scabs to temporarily replace the striking workers. The two sides agreed to a new CBA in August 2014. The previous contract between the parties expired on April 30th, 2013.

Ms. Marcavage indicated to the newspaper more than one year before Mr. DePasquale released his findings regarding the lack of enforcement of Pennsylvania Act 102 (the Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act of 2008), that PASNAP believed the Department of Labor was not investigating and enforcing the law at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. “We knew all along there were problems at Wilkes-Barre General,” Ms. Marcavage stated.

“To put it simply, the implementation of the law to protect healthcare workers and their patients was clearly not a priority at the Department of Labor and Industry. In addition to missing, by more than four years, the legislatively mandated deadline to adopt regulations to enforce the law, Labor and Industry summarily dismissed eight precent of the complaints it received during our audit period,” stated Mr. DePasquale.

Act 102 of 2008 limits healthcare facilities including hospitals, nursing homes and outpatieent facilities from requiring hourly, nonsupervisory employees involved in direct patient healthcare to work more than agreed to predetermined and regularly scheduled work shifts.

Mr. DePasquale indicated that the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry was very cooperative during his audit which covered July 1st, 2009, when the full act went into effect, through August 31st, 2014. During that time the DOL was overseen by officials appointed by anti-worker Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett. Mr. Cobett was defeated by current Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf in November 2014 and took over as Pennsylvania Governor this past January.

PASNAP stated that in late August of 2009 the union brought to the Auditor General DePasquale attention the numerous violations of Act 102 throughout Pennsylvania, including at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, and the failure by the Corbett administration’s DOL to enforce the law.

“The results of this audit shine an important light on the reluctance of past administrators blatant unwillingless to enforce the law. Because of the persistence and determination of our members, particularly at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, we now have proof of what we’ve known all along. Too many hospitals violate with impurity a law established to protect patients and nurses,” stated Patricia Eakin President of PASNAP.

PASNAP also represents nurses employed at the Geisinger Community Medical Center (GCMC) in Scranton, covered under a seperate CBA with Geisinger Health Systems.

Under the Wolf administration, Pennsylvania Labor and Industry has hired an additional five investigators for the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance, which works in the field investigating any complaint or tip regarding Department of Labor and Industry rule violations.

DOL stated it is addressing Mr. DePasquale’s report that showed failures within the audit by streamlining central record keeping, updating their database, and having more boots on the ground to investigate and talk to employees involve with any possible violation. One finding was that DOL tracking system was so bad it made it almost impossible to determine if there was not compliance of the law.