Thousands of New York City nurses end three-day strike after reaching deal with hospitals

Two hospitals reach tentative contract agreements with nurses union and 7,000 striking healthcare workers

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 12 January 2023 14:57 GMT
Truck and bus drivers honk to support nurses striking in New York City

More than 7,000 New York City nurses will return to work on Thursday after tentative agreements with two large hospital systems were reached in the early morning hours, ending a historic three-day strike over chronic staffing issues.

Hundreds of striking workers picketed Mount Sinai in Harlem and Montefiore campuses in The Bronx beginning 9 January demanding sustainable nurse-parroting ratios.

New York State Nurses Association, a union representing more than 40,000 nurses in the city, warned that unsafe staffing levels were endangering patients and burning out healthcare workers in the midst of the ongoing public health crisis from Covid-19 and a wave of flu and respiratory illnesses.

“Through our unity and by putting it all on the line, we won enforceable safe staffing ratios at both Montefiore and Mount Sinai where nurses went on strike for patient care," union president Nancy Hagans said in a statement shared with The Independent.

"Today, we can return to work with our heads held high, knowing that our victory means safer care for our patients and more sustainable jobs for our profession,” she said.

According to the New York State Nurses Association, Mount Sinai nurses won an agreement for “wall-to-wall safe staffing ratios for all inpatient units” with “firm enforcement” to ensure compliance with staffing levels.

The agreement will take effect immediately, marking what the union called a “historic breakthrough”with a hospital system “that refused to consider ratios that nurses have been demanding for decades”.

An agreement with Montefiore nurses will ensure new safe staffing ratios in the Emergency Department, “with new staffing language and financial penalties for failing to comply with safe staffing levels in all units,” according to the union.

A statement from Montefiore said the hospital’s bargaining team woked “around the clock” to come to an agreement following three days of strikes across its campuses in The Bronx. The hospital said a deal with the union reflected “the best possible working environment, with significant wage and benefit enhancements”.

“We know this strike impacted everyone – not just our nurses – and we were committed to coming to a resolution as soon as possible to minimize disruption to patient care,” the statement added.

A statement on Mount Sinai's website said it is “pleased that The Mount Sinai Hospital reached a tentative agreement with NYSNA and the strike is over”.

Staff attrition and turnover rates, compounded by hospitals’ failure to recruit and retain more workers, have exploded the “understaffing crisis” fuelling nurses demands in the renewed contract battle, Ms Hagans told reporters last week.

“Instead of wasting time and resources and money, they could … allocate to the nurses right now and improve staffing,” she said. “They need to come to the table and negotiate a fair contract.”

On the first day of the strike outside Mount Sinai on Monday, nurses told The Independent that their hospitals have endured years-long staffing issues on top of Covid surges, waves of respiratory illness, inflation concerns and the growing cost of living. Ms Hagans said that hospitals’ failure to hire new nurses has left hundreds of vacancies, including more than 700 openings at Montefiore and 500 at Mount Sinai.

New York Attorney General Letitia James also has pushed Governor Kathy Hochul’s office to enforce staffing rules mandated by state law, telling a crowd outside Mount Sinai on Monday that it is “so important” that the state’s Department of Health “get it right.”

“No excuses,” she said, pointing out to the crowd that hospitals have hired temporary workers to address staff shortages while nurses are on strike. “If you could do it now, then you should have done it then,” she said.

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