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Kaleida, 3 unions reach an accord

More than 8,000 unionized health care workers avoided the threat of a strike Tuesday when Kaleida Health and three unions came to a tentative agreement on a new two-year master bargaining contract.

Details about the proposed contract were not released.

"Early this morning, the bargaining committee reached a tentative agreement with Kaleida management on a new contract -- now we will take the deal to our members for their approval," said union representatives in a statement Tuesday.

The statement was issued on behalf of John Klein, president of Local 1168, Communications Workers of America, and Jim Scordato, vice president of Local 1199, Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers East. Both unions and Local 17, International Union of Operating Engineers, have been in negotiations with Kaleida for almost four months.

"It's very satisfying to get this done. Our membership was very mobilized and ready for strike mode, and I think Kaleida sensed that," Klein said. "We were able to come up with a contract that I think both sides will be happy with."

A strike authorization vote had been scheduled for Tuesday morning. The groups' master bargaining contract expired at the end of last month, but two contract extensions gave them until Monday to reach agreement. The tentative agreement came at 2:30 a.m., making a strike vote unnecessary.

The members' willingness to strike was a tipping point, Klein said.

"Members' support for the bargaining committee really made the difference," he said. "It lifted our spirits and helped things at the bargaining table play out in our favor."

Neither Kaleida nor union representatives would elaborate on the details of the deal until it is officially ratified, but a statement from Kaleida Health said union officials would be apprising their union members of the agreement terms in the coming weeks.

Parties went back to the bargaining table at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday for further discussion about ratification.

Kaleida Health has more than 10,000 employees in Western New York.

Meanwhile, in another area health care labor dispute, 400 workers remain locked out of their jobs at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. Members of Local 212, Office and Professional Employees International Union, have been locked out since April.

e-mail: schristmann@buffnews.com