BREAKING LABOR NEWS: CWA & 1199 SEIU Members Ratify ‘Historic’ Three-Year Contract With Kaleida Health - ‘Major Strides Made To Address Staffing Crisis, Including Adding 500 New Positions & A Minimum & Overall 12% Wage Increase’
(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) - Nurses, Clinical, Professional, Technical, Service, Dietary and Clerical Staff represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Healthcare Workers East have voted to ratify a new three-year contract at Kaleida Health, Western New York’s largest hospital system.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement, which runs from June 1st, 2022 to May 31st, 2025, includes industry-leading wages and Safe Staffing Ratios, covers 6,300 Unionized Health Care Workers who are employed at the Buffalo General Medical Center, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, HighPointe on Michigan, DeGraff Medical Park, and various community-based clinics.
Of the Union Members who voted - 91% from 1199SEIU and 74% from CWA Local 1168, were in favor of ratification, the two Unions announced late Thursday (October 13th) evening.
In a major victory towards solving Kaleida’s staffing crisis, CWA and 1199 SEIU secured the addition of 500 full-time equivalent positions, both clinical and non-clinical, along with improved incentives for all open shifts - with automatic bonus on any open weekend shift.
In addition, the contract features staffing incentive bonuses that will range from $15 to $30 per hour, depending on job title.
Per the contract, health insurance for newly hired Employees starts after 30 days.
Kaleida will also create two new Unionized positions in order to oversee Safe Staffing Ratios and ensure they are adhered to, and to facilitate the improvement of working conditions within its hospitals, it was also announced.
Over the next three years, all Union Members will receive a compounded minimum 12% general wage increase, as well as increases to pensions based on years of service.
Notably, the Unions’ Bargaining Committee made no concessions.
Even when Kaleida demanded changes and cuts to their Workers’ health insurance coverage, the Committee pushed to protect the Union Members’ and prioritize patient care, Union Representatives said.
CWA Local 1168 President Cori Gambini, a Registered Nurse, said: “This contract is a huge win for our Members who have been struggling to care for patients amidst serious staffing issues and a nationwide Worker shortage. We fought hard to ensure there were no compromises made, which is a testament to the tireless efforts of our members whose top priority has always been their patients. We worked to strengthen loop-holes in the contract, making sure to reinforce the intent of the language for our Members. After years of dealing with a pandemic and learning from it, we made sure to include pandemic-specific language that creates a committee to address any health, safety, and preparedness to protect our Members.”
Jim Scordato, 1199 SEIU’s Vice-President for WNY Hospitals, said: “After eight months of intense bargaining, we were able to bring back to our Members one of the best Labor contracts in Western New York. With the ratification of this agreement, we have set a new standard in wages and benefits in the Health Care Industry in our area. We want to commend our Member-led Bargaining Team who made a commitment to long hours and long weeks, sacrificing time away from their families to win such a strong contract for themselves, their colleagues, and ultimately their patients. Without their dedication and perseverance, this would not have been possible.”
CWA Area Director Deb Hayes said: “Congratulations to our Members on the ratification of this agreement with Kaleida. I am proud to say we made no concessions and won an excellent contract that will allow us not only to retain the Workers we have now, but to recruit the talented Staff we desperately need in the hospital system. After years of fighting for safe staffing, this contract is historic in terms of the strength of its staffing language and stipulations. We are confident the ratios included in this agreement will allow our Members to get back to doing their jobs without fighting against the never-ending current of understaffing. Not only were we able to negotiate ratios for direct Caregivers, but we also negotiated additional full-time equivalents for our Members in our Professional, Technical, Clerical and Service Units.”
In addition to improved wages and benefits, Union Workers also won two additional paid holidays, including Martin Luther King Day and Juneteenth.
To help create a work-life balance, Kaleida also agreed to create shorter work shifts.
Dozens of Professional, Clerical and Technical Workers also secured job upgrades that keeps Kaleida competitive among wages in the area.
Clerical and Service Workers hired after 2011 were moved to a new scale, while Service Workers hired before 2011 will receive up to $1,500 an annual bonus in each year of the contract.
Amid a national Nursing shortage, Kaleida also agreed to reduce the use of Travel Nurses by increasing the number of permanent nursing positions through the New York State Clinical Staffing Committees.
Kaleida also agreed to improve step-pay for existing Nurses, which ranges from $1.90 an hour to $3.26 an hour, as well as an increase in night shift differential.
Advanced Practice Providers, meanwhile, secured language to protect their jobs when providing care in the hospitals and clinical settings.