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Peninsula Hospital nurses protest

A day after their contract expired, nurses at Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway protested outside the gates of the facility Friday demanding better pension and health care benefits.

"The nurses here are aggravated because they feel they've been screwed over by these 'promises, promises,' " said Tom Jennings, a labor representative from the New York State Nurses Associations.

The nurses, who were clad in red T-shirts with some wearing red bandanas, received support from motorists who passed by Beach Channel Drive honking their horns.

They were also accompanied by a large inflatable rat donated by the Teamsters union, which is backing the nurses.

Mark Genovese, a NYSNA spokesman who participated in the protest, said the rat was "symbolic of the notion of greed of hospital administrators.

"We're not implying that there's a rodent infestation," Genovese said. "We're implying that there's rats in the administration."

Hospital spokeswoman Liz Sulik said the protest, formally called an informational picket, was "certainly within [the nurses'] rights.

"We and NYSNA are proceeding with the scheduled contract labor negotiations," she said.

Rosenda Marakas, a Rockaway Park resident and nurse at Peninsula who is also the NYSNA grievance chairwoman, said the nurses are "having a hard time" getting concessions out of the hospital administration.

"It's unfortunate that we have to turn to" protest, Marakas said. "This is a call to them to sit down and get serious."

Glenda Newman, a nurse who also acts as a bargainer, said the negotiation "isn't going well at all. The nurses are extremely dissatisfied."

She complained that nurses at nearby St. John's Episcopal Hospital, the only other hospital in the Rockaways, receive better pay than those at Peninsula.

The starting salary is $60,032 for nurses at the hospital, according to Genovese. He said nurses at Manhattan hospitals and at some facilities in the outer boroughs receive $65,000.

Newman said nurses are willing to forgo salary increases for the next three years in exchange for better pension benefits.

"We're not asking for the stars, the moon or the sun," Newman said. "We're asking to be competitive. Nurses feel that they've been given their youth and there should be some compensation."

Jennings said the hospital does not have a pension proposal on the table.

"We feel that management now is dilly-dallying around," he said.

Sulik said she could not comment on the hospital's proposals.

"I'm not at liberty to do so because I do not know," she said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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