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July 1 - Bargaining Update

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Extension Does Not Limit Ability To Mobilize For Job Actions

Since Kaleida is working with CWA and 1199SEIU at the bargaining table and we continue making progress, we have extended the contract until July 31. Extensions maintain all protections in our Collective Bargaining Agreement. If the contract expires without an extension in place, the biggest change is that we lose the right to arbitrate any grievances filed between the expiration date and the date a new agreement is ratified. Our contract does not permit a strike while it is in effect, and extensions have the same effect. While the contract is in effect, we are still allowed to mobilize, hold an informational picket, take a strike vote, and even send a 10-day notice, so that if talks fail, we are preparedIf bargaining becomes unproductive, we will let the extension expire.

As we discuss economic matters including staffing and wage increase proposals, our progress has slowed but definitely not stopped. CWA and 1199SEIU are taking time every day to compare our pay scales with Roswell’s, ECMC’s and Catholic Health’s for similar job titles, to make sure we remain the best paid workforce in the area and establish appropriate wage progressions. If it’s a race to stay ahead, the bargaining committee doesn’t want to lead by a nose like in horse racing; we want to win by meters like Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky. What’s more, we have heard our longtime members loud and clear that there should be a step after 20 years, and are discussing how to factor it into the scale.

Kaleida continues to listen to us at the table, and they’re not shooting down our proposals or tweaking language, but instead taking them back to review and returning with questions. We on the bargaining committee feel that it’s incredibly important to stand firm on proposals that will keep our wages the highest in the area for the work we do, which will attract and retain members – and this in turn will keep Kaleida afloat as a health care system for our patients, and give us the resources to provide the care those patients deserve.

To that end, this week 1199SEIU and CWA heard presentations from BGH’s respiratory therapists, BGH’s social workers, nurses from 4North at BGH, and from a consultant regarding Kaleida’s finances. If you feel that your department needs better staffing, or a reconfiguration of assignments, please contact a lead mobilizer, delegate, steward, or chief to set up a time to present to the bargaining committee and Kaleida administration.

The respiratory therapists spoke about their short staffing and proposed a new distribution of RTs in the building. This requested assignment change would require hiring two more people into the department, which could then establish a Rapid Response/float/transport position to accompany and treat patients.

Social workers, on the other hand, asked for an upgrade because they work very closely with the Patient Care Coordinators, but are paid significantly less for the same job duties. The group raised that point as they recounted how their work allows for even the most complicated patients to be discharged, so that Kaleida has space for new patients to come in, keeping revenue flowing.

The 4N RNs from BGMC spoke about the unrealistic patient loads they have every shift, due to poor staffing and high turnover, the impossibility of accomplishing their work safely when – as often happens – they are the only staff nurse and cannot hand off their patients to an agency RN or a generalist float while their patient needs to leave the floor for a procedure. These concerns, frustrations, and anxiety translate to every job title in the hospitals and clinics, in some way. Kaleida administration listened politely but asked few questions.

For the last five contracts, our consultant Dr. Fred Hyde has examined 10-year chunks of Kaleida’s finances and reported to the bargaining committee how things look and how much wiggle room there is. Dr. Hyde pointed out two numbers and explained what they mean in context. For example, salaries and benefits as a percentage of what it costs to run Kaleida have declined since 2018. This figure includes union and non-union workers, doctors, department managers, and hospital administrators. What the decline means is that people are leaving Kaleida, which is obvious to anyone who’s been working here. Some departments have fewer than a dozen members remaining on the schedule, and if they’re lucky, overtime, agency personnel or floats plug some of the holes. The other number Dr. Hyde explained is that “purchased services” as a percentage of what it costs to run Kaleida is higher than he feels it should be, and it’s unclear what’s included in this category. Dr. Hyde’s presentation will guide our questions as we move forward with discussions on wages and benefits.

At the end of the day, yes, it costs money to run Kaleida, but CWA and 1199SEIU feel that appropriate staffing levels and minimal turnover will benefit our patients in the form of better care, greater attention to detail, and better outcomes such as fewer falls and hospital acquired infections.