Brooks, union reach tentative agreement

Labor peace may have been reached as Brooks Memorial Hospital and the negotiating committee for 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East have reached a tentative agreement.

Both sides met again Monday and have reached a tentative settlement, ending tough negotiations that began in March and included a picket outside the hospital on Aug. 7. Union members also had voted to authorize a one-day strike if the negotiating committee members felt it was necessary to spur movement on the hospital’s side.

Monday’s session began at 10 a.m. and ended after midnight. It followed a 20-hour session on Aug. 13. The two sides issued a joint statement on the negotiations Tuesday afternoon.

“We are pleased to announce that Brooks Memorial Hospital and the workers of 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East have reached a tentative contract settlement. We believe this contract, when ratified, will benefit the hospital, the workers and the entire community.

“The negotiations, which began on March 11, 2014, reached tentative settlement at approximately 12:30 a.m. (after midnight) on August 26, 2014. Both negotiating teams acknowledged the difficult issues faced in a rapidly changing healthcare industry and expressed confidence that this agreement sets a solid foundation for continued collaboration for building the future of the hospital and the community it serves.

“The contract will not take effect until a ratification vote is taken by the 1199SEIU membership at the hospital. That date is scheduled for September 11, 2014. After ratification, details of the contract will be released.”

The statement came from Mindy Berman, an SEIU communications director, and Jack Davis, vice president of administration and a negotiator for Brooks. The 170 union members will now have to approve the deal, which both sides felt was near after the Aug. 13 marathon session.

The current 1199 SEIU contract, which expired April 30, was a three-year agreement and provided wage increases of at least 6.6 to 9.5 percent over the life of the contract, based on years of service. The contract covers licensed practical nurses, clerical, service and maintenance workers.

Negotiations between the hospital and its registered nurses, represented by New York State Nursing Association, are ongoing.

Brooks Memorial Hospital is a 65-bed acute care, voluntary, non-profit hospital that includes an emergency department, serving the community of Dunkirk and surrounding areas.

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