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Tensions surrounding ongoing labor negotiations at Bayside’s Ozanam Hall nursing home mounted as members of the UFCW Local 342 union voted last week to authorize a strike, the group said.
Labor negotiations at Ozanam Hall have been ongoing since the previous contract expired in 2010 due to what the home’s management attributed to cuts in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements.
The union voted May 7 to authorize a strike, providing them with an additional tool at the bargaining table, the union said.
“The members voted ‘yes’ to authorize a strike,” said Kate Meckler, the union’s director of communications. “But that doesn’t mean they are on strike or will strike.”
Meckler said the union must give 10 days’ notice before a strike, and last week’s majority vote only gave the union the ability to let Ozanam Hall know that members have authorized a strike if necessary.
The Ozanam management said Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements have been reduced by more than $7 million since April 2009.
“This crisis is especially severe in nursing homes in New York,” Ozanam Hall said in a statement. “The state has savagely cut nursing home reimbursement for Medicaid and Medicare services, which cover the great majority of residents in the homes.”
The home said it has negotiated in good faith with the workers union and hopes Local 342 will recognize the financial crisis and long-range implications.
“We understand the employees’ frustration and we have made proposals, which take into account the employees’ needs and the home’s long-term crisis,” Ozanam Hall said in a statement. “So far, the union has rejected our proposals. Neither side has declared an impasse and more negotiations are scheduled.”
But according to Meckler, the home’s cuts have resulted in a decrease in care for its more than 400 residents.
“The members are tired and fed up,” Meckler said. “If necessary, we’ll now have the ability to strike.”
A bargaining committee made up of union members would make the final call on whether or not to strike, Meckler said.
The union announced Tuesday they would join with representatives from the office of state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) Friday, May 18 at 11 a.m. for a press conference outside Ozanam Hall to share stories and sign a letter addressed to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, head of the Brooklyn Diocese, to address their concerns.
The 432-bed facility, at 42-41 201st St., is administered by the Catholic Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm and has been serving elderly residents with both short-term rehabilitation and geriatric care in Bayside for more than 30 years.
According to the more than 400 union members at the home, cuts in hours have forced them to take on more work, lessening the quality of care for their patients.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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