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Dunkirk hospital and its largest union reach tentative contract

Brooks Memorial Hospital has reached a tentative agreement on a contract with its largest union following months of tough negotiations that included a one-day picket outside the Dunkirk hospital earlier this month and a strike-authorization vote last week.

The deal still must be ratified by 170 members of 1199SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which represents licensed practical nurses, clerical workers, maintenance staff and service employees at the 65-bed hospital.

But James Scordato, a vice president with 1199SEIU, confirmed that a tentative, three-year agreement was reached last night shortly before midnight and he expects a ratification vote to take place on Sept. 11. Terms were not released pending the membership vote.

Contract talks had begun in March, and the previous contract had expired at the end of April. Union members frustrated with the pace of negotiations had protested outside the facility on Aug. 7, objecting to management’s proposals of a freeze on wages and employer pension contributions and a decrease in paid time off.

Scordato said he believes the union’s efforts to rally community support to their position, and the recent strike authorization vote, helped convince management to reach a deal with 1199SEIU that doesn’t include many of the original, unwelcome proposals.

“It really changed the dynamic of bargaining,” Scordato said.

A. Jack Davis , the hospital’s vice president for administrative services, declined to comment pending a joint statement the hospital and 1199SEIU plan to issue soon.

Brooks Memorial Hospital has an affiliation agreement with UPMC Hamot in Erie, Pa., part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The hospital still is in negotiations with the New York State Nurses Association local that represents its 130 or so registered nurses. That contract expired June 30.