Brooks Hospital negotiations set to continue Monday

Another session is set for Monday in the ongoing negotiations between Brooks Memorial Hospital and the union representing 175 of its workers, 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East.

The negotiations, which began in March, may be getting closer to a resolution, according Jack Davis, vice president of administration and a negotiator for Brooks.

“I would agree that we have made good progress on difficult issues. We are meeting again early next week, and with the assistance of the federal mediator expect that we will continue to make progress,” Davis told the OBSERVER. “While we have set no definitive date to conclude negotiations, and we are working through matters important to us all, I am hopeful that an amicable agreement is moving into sight.”

The last session was held Aug. 13 and the 20-hour session gave hope the end of negotiations was in sight, according to Jeff St. George, an employee at Brooks and a member of the union negotiating committee.

“I feel both sides were pretty close to an agreement,” he told the OBSERVER. “Everybody is holding up really well. All of our committee, except one, we have all done contract negotiations before. We’re aware of how this takes place and how this is done. This has been a little lengthy but everybody’s holding up pretty well and supporting each other.”

“What’s important is it’s the rank and file at the table doing the negotiations. If they need resources from the rest of the union, that comes with it,” said Mindy Berman, an SEIU communications director. “It’s not a union where people from some other place come in and negotiate the contract for you, the workers actually negotiate their own contract and vote on everything themselves.”

Berman added the negotiating committee is selected by a vote of local membership each time negotiations come up. The union negotiating team has some 10 members, including SEIU advisors, while the Brooks negotiators number around seven. Most of the meetings have been held at the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator.

The local union membership has voted to authorize a one-day strike but has not given the hospital official notice of its intent to do so. It is not something the union wants to do, according to St. George.

“What they’re doing is giving the committee permission, if we feel that we’re going backwards, or we’re at a stalemate or things seem very, very unreasonable. At this point we’ve been negotiating since the middle of March and we have made a lot of progress,” St. George explained. “After last Wednesday’s marathon, we were all tired but we said to each other if we have to stay here 24 hours or until two o’clock the next afternoon to wrap this up we will.

“We meet on Monday, we think we’re very close, we’ll see where that goes and hopefully we can get it wrapped up, or hopefully it continues to make progress where we can continue to negotiate. The only way we would give them a notice of strike is if we felt things started going backwards, or they were being very unreasonable at this time.”

Berman added as long as talks continue and progress is being made, “that’s what we’ll keep doing.”

Monday’s session is scheduled to start at 10 a.m., when it will end is to be determined.

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