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No new contract talks set as strike at Mercy Hospital goes on

No new contract talks set as strike at Mercy Hospital goes on

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Along Abbott Mercy Hospital Strike

Hundreds of Mercy Hospital workers picket along Abbott Road early Friday morning after going on strike following a breakdown in contract talks with Catholic Health.

No new bargaining sessions are scheduled between Catholic Health and the union representing 2,500 of its nurses, clerical and technical workers as a strike at Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo continued Saturday.

Neither the hospital system nor the Communications Workers of America would say when talks would resume. The parties are negotiating six labor contracts covering workers at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Kenmore Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus. Under a previous deal, only workers at Mercy Hospital may strike.

About 2,000 workers walked off the job at 6 a.m. Friday after months of negotiations stretching into the early morning hours that day failed to produce an agreement. The sides have not struck a deal on issues such as wages and staffing levels at the hospitals.

Catholic Health has contracted with a staffing agency in Michigan, at a cost of millions of dollars, to provide replacement workers for Mercy Hospital, which remains open with reduced services.

The CWA on Saturday afternoon held a rally outside the hospital with speakers, including Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. It began with nurses on the picket line chanting.

Catholic Health, meanwhile, said Saturday that CWA Locals 1133 and 1168 had not yet responded to the company's last full economic proposal.

"We are certainly willing to resume negotiations," Catholic Health spokesperson JoAnn Cavanaugh said in a written statement. "We presented a full package on Thursday, and CWA must do the same."

Debora Hayes, the area director for the Communications Workers of America, said Friday that the union did not have enough time to consider Catholic Health's staffing proposal because it came just hours before the strike.

“You cannot come in the night before a strike starts and make your first serious proposal on staffing, and expect we’re going to be able to digest all kinds of information, all kinds of data, and then intelligently write a proposal that will deal with their work conditions," Hayes said.

Catholic Health provided its most recent offer to the union before the strike, a pitch that included a minimum average wage raise of 3% in the first year, with some jobs getting bigger increases, followed by 2% raises in the second and third years and 2.75% in the fourth.

In that proposal, Catholic Health officials stated that the company would "invest" $20 million to improve staffing and would use "targeted staffing ratios to build corresponding staffing grids."

While Catholic Health's proposal appeared to make progress on wage increases, it did not alleviate the union's concerns over staffing levels.

Read the full story from News Staff Reporter Jon Harris

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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