Nurses strike: More than 7,000 hospital workers in New York start industrial action

More than 7,000 nurses at two New York City hospitals have gone on strike amid collapsing bargaining talks.

The strike began at 06:00 on Monday after talks failed to find a solution overnight.

While tentative agreements had been reached in recent days for nurses at several hospitals, negotiations failed at Mount Sinai Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and three Bronx sites at Montefiore Medical Center.

The New York State Nurses Association said in a statement Monday that “after late-night negotiations at Montefiore and Mount Sinai Hospital yesterday, no tentative agreements were reached. Today, over 7,000 nurses at two hospitals are on strike for fair contracts that improve patient care”.

On Monday morning, hundreds of nurses and supporters covered two city blocks. Even as the strike entered the street and stopped traffic for a moment, truck drivers driving by honked their horns in support, CNN reported.

Both hospitals, which are struggling to reach agreements with staff, said on Monday that negotiations had fallen apart.

Mount Sinai spokeswoman Lucia Lee told CNN that New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) leadership “walked out of negotiations just after 1 a.m. ET, refusing to accept the exact same offer of a 19.1% increase in wages that was agreed upon of eight other hospitals, including two other Mount Sinai Health System campuses, disregarding the governor’s solution to avoid a strike.”

NYSNA nurses protest as they walk off the job to go on strike at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, USA on January 9, 2023

(REUTERS)

Montefiore Medical Center called it “a sad day for New York City”.

“Despite Montefiore’s offer of a compound salary increase of 19.1% – the same offer granted at the wealthiest of our peer institutions – and a commitment to create over 170 new nursing positions … NYSNA’s leadership has decided to walk away from the bedside of their patients, the center said.

While NYSNA has agreed to the same pay increases at other hospitals, it argued that members at Mount Sinai and Montefiore were overworked.

NYSNA President Nancy Hagans told the press on Sunday that “we need management to come to the table and provide better staffing”.

A hospital worker raises a fist as NYSNA nurses walk off the job to go on strike at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, U.S. on January 9, 2023

(REUTERS)

The trade union argues that the strike action is an attempt to improve care for patients.

“Walking into the hospital to get the care you need is NOT crossing our picket line. Patients should seek hospital care immediately if they need it, the union said in a statement. “We’d rather be the ones providing that care, but our bosses have pushed us to be out here instead.”

Hagans said Montefiore has 760 nursing positions waiting to be filled, and that “too often, one nurse in the emergency department is responsible for 20 patients instead of the standard three patients.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul pushed the union and management to agree to binding arbitration as a path beyond strike action. While hospital management agreed, the union did not.

“We will not give up our fight to ensure our patients have enough nurses at the bedside,” the union responded to the proposal.

NYSNA nurses walk off the job to go on strike at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, USA on January 9, 2023

(REUTERS)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams urged all parties to “stay at the negotiating table as long as it takes to reach a voluntary agreement”.

The affected hospitals have prepared for the strike following the notice shared by the union ten days ago. They planned to bring in temporary “traveling” nurses to fill the gaps, and some facilities had begun moving patients, according to CNN.

The trade union argues that the hospitals must spend more to bring in substitutes and that the hospitals should instead agree to the union’s proposal.

“As nurses, our number one concern is patient safety,” Hagans said Friday in a statement. “Yet nurses … have been forced to work understaffed, stretched to breaking point, sometimes with one ED nurse responsible for 20 patients. It’s not safe for nurses or our patients.”

“Mount Sinai is appalled by NYSNA’s reckless actions,” the hospital said in a statement Friday. “The union puts patient care at risk, and it forces valued nurses at Mount Sinai to choose between their dedication to patient care and their own livelihoods.”

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