New York City Nurses Vote to Authorize Strike If Talks Fail

Thousands of New York City nurses at the city’s largest hospitals have authorized a strike if contract negotiations with management break down in coming days.

No date for a strike has been set as talks are still continuing, the New York State Nurses Association said Tuesday in a statement. The union is negotiating on behalf of 18,000 nurses in New York City’s private hospitals and will begin four days of intensive talks on Wednesday.

Nurses and hospitals -- which include Mount Sinai Hospital, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center -- have been trying to negotiate a new contract since the last one expired at the end of 2014. The nurses say they want language in their contracts that would require minimum staffing levels to protect the safety of patients and staff. The union also has been pushing for state legislation that would set staffing minimums.

“Our No. 1 priority is to get a contract that creates enforceable language for staffing shortfalls in all of our hospitals,” said Tara Martin, a spokeswoman for the nurses association. “We are seeing huge numbers of patients coming into the hospitals, and it has created an unsafe situation for not just the nurses, but the patients themselves.”

The hospitals have offered a 10 percent wage increase over four years and no change to health or pension benefits, said Farrell Sklerov, a spokesman for the negotiating team representing Mount Sinai, Montefiore and New York-Presbyterian. The hospitals oppose fixed staffing ratios.

Hospitals Object

The nurses’ “claim that there is a staffing shortage and unsafe conditions couldn’t be more off the mark,” Sklerov said in an e-mail. “We hope that NYSNA returns to the bargaining table rather than willfully mislead the public and put the city on the path to a completely unnecessary health-care crisis.”

In 2011, a nurse strike at three New York hospitals was averted at the last minute after months of negotiations over health benefits and staffing levels.

Before striking, the nurses are required by law to give the hospitals 10 days notice, which hasn’t occurred yet.

The strike wouldn’t affect hospitals that are part of New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, which include Bellevue Hospital Center and Jacobi Medical Center.

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