A strike involving more than 7,000 nurses at two New York City hospitals has ended after three days when they reached tentative deals with hospitals over staffing levels, their union says.
Nurses at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan headed back to work on Thursday morning after reaching an agreement for “enforceable safe staffing ratios”, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said in a statement.
The tentative deals also include raises totalling 19 percent over three years. New York Governor Kathy Hochul greeted returning nurses at Mount Sinai just before dawn on Thursday.
The nurses had walked out early on Monday after negotiations with management ran aground. Each hospital has more than 1,000 beds and 3,500 or more union nurses.
“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.
Montefiore also agreed to new language and financial penalties for failing to comply with safe staffing levels, community health improvements and nurse-student partnerships to recruit local Bronx nurses to work as union members at Montefiore for the long run, the union said.
The nurses went on strike after contract negotiations stalled over pay and staffing levels. The walkout forced Montefiore to reschedule all elective surgeries and procedures and postpone appointments at ambulatory locations.
“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,” Hagens said.
Union officials said they planned to provide details of the proposed contract agreement and the ratification timeline at a briefing later on Thursday.
The hospitals say they have been grappling with a widespread nursing shortage that the pandemic worsened.
“Our bargaining team has been working around the clock with NYSNA’s leadership to come to an agreement,” Montefiore said in a statement. “From the outset, we came to the table committed to bargaining in good faith and addressing the issues that were priorities for our nursing staff.”
Hochul, in remarks after the agreement was announced, praised the deal “to get thousands of nurses back on the job where they want to be”.
Hochul said the three-year contract could also help the state address its healthcare workforce shortage with better wages and conditions that could draw more workers, adding: “Know you are respected. Know you are appreciated.”
Union officials and members also praised the settlement in remarks along with the governor, calling it a “historic contract” that recognized nurses’ work, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a big win for the patients,” the Reuters news agency quoted one Mount Sinai Hospital nurse as saying.