The mayor of Toledo released a statement Friday morning blasting Mercy Health officials amid an ongoing strike at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center and urging them to return to the bargaining table.
“The hospital’s forced overtime policy is unfair to nurses and potentially harmful to patients,” Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said. “Mercy has been the subject of increasing criticism for failing to adhere to its mission of helping people who are poor and underserved.”
The mayor decried that the company is advertising $25,000 signing bonuses to replace striking workers. He also notes that Mercy has received more than $38 million in tax breaks in greater Cincinnati, but “is closing health clinics in schools serving economically challenged students at the same time it serves as the official health care provider for the city’s professional soccer team.”
A spokesman for the mayor said Mr. Kapszukiewicz issued his statement in response to Mercy Health’s notice on Thursday that it is hiring nurses and offering new hires bonuses up to $25,000.
In a notice on its website, Mercy Health said it is obligated to continue providing care to the community and was “aggressively hiring” state registered nurses by offering sign-on bonuses of $10,000 for new nursing school graduates and up to $25,000 for experienced RNs. Mercy Health added that current associates who refer a new RN to the hospital would be eligible for a bonus.
Mayor Kapszukiewicz said Mercy Health is Ohio’s largest hospital system and one of the largest employers both in the state and in the Glass City.
“As Mercy continues to expand, I strongly urge its leaders to return to the bargaining table and reach an agreement that best serves nurses, patients, and the community,” he said.
The strike at the Toledo hospital is entering its second month. Striking technicians and support workers returned to work Monday after ratifying separate contracts, while 950 nurses represented by United Auto Workers remain on strike.
They were recently given a new contract proposal by St. Vincent but opted not to present it for a ratification vote.
In a direct response to the mayor, Mercy Health officials that they were grateful for Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s interest in the strike, but said his statement had “a variety of inaccuracies.”
Mercy Health said it recently has resolved contracts with two UAW-represented bargaining units and returned about 1,100 union workers back to work. “This is something that should be celebrated. Associates in the RN Unit, however, were not able to consider our proposal,” the hospital said.
On the contested issue of mandatory overtime, Mercy Health said it proposed language that would have limited RN associates to no more than a 16-hour workday but leaders from UAW Local 2213, which represents nurses at St. Vincent, asked that it be removed from the proposal early in the negotiating process.
The hospital added that one of the key reasons it is now offering generous incentives to recruit RNs is “to address Local 2213’s staffing concerns and overtime issues.” The incentives help ensure it is recruiting the best available nurses to work at St. Vincent.
Mercy Health restated — as it has many times previously — that it has provided about $65,000 daily in charitable care, community outreach and direct programming at St. Vincent.
“This does not support the statement that Mercy Health is ‘failing to adhere to its mission of helping people who are poor and underserved,’” the hospital said.
The hospital also said that sponsorship of sports venue and athletic teams is part of a marketing approach throughout the health-care industry and is designed to benefit a local community and engage consumers. However, St. Vincent said sports sponsorships are unrelated to negotiations with the UAW.
Sue Pratt, president of Local 2213, said she was surprised by Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s comment. But she added that she too was outraged by the hefty signing bonuses for new employees when experienced qualified nurses remain on the picket lines.
“Many of our people are excellent clinicians and this is the way they’re treating them. They said they’re going to give some [new hires] $25,000 — they don’t even know what they’re getting,” Ms. Pratt said.
Source: toledo blade
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