Hospital workers ask for better contract

Workers who are part of Union 1199 SEIU picketed outside Long Island Community Hospital last week, asking for a better contract than what’s been put on the table. According to the union, this is the first contract this chapter will negotiate and wish to speak out about fair wages, affordable health insurance, and safe staffing and its connection to quality care.

The workers have done “everything possible” to negotiate a contract that will provide livable wages, affordable benefits, and improve working conditions they say would ease short-staffing and, as a result, improve continuity and overall quality care. Representatives are asking the hospital to provide more.

“Many of us haven’t had a raise in years; meanwhile, they are trying to raise our health insurance costs,” said Marcela Vasquez, a phlebotomist. “It feels like a slap in the face. We are living paycheck to paycheck and it’s like they don’t care. They show up to negotiations unprepared and don’t take us seriously.”

Local elected officials, including Legis. Rob Calarco and Rudy Sunderman, stopped by the picket to lend their support. Sunderman offered his office’s assistance in what the workers needed, and said his perspective as a first responder in Mastic helps him to relate to the wants and needs of healthcare employees.

“I really appreciate what you do and what you deserve going forward,” Sunderman told the group. “I thank you for what you do and let’s keep up the good fight.”

The hospital will continue to work with the union and the employees to reach a fair deal, according to Cynthia Ruf, vice president of branding and stakeholder relations for Long Island Community Hospital. Ruf said the hospital has always cared about the wellbeing of employees and has made continuous efforts to commend workers for what they do every day.

Ruf added that the deliberations between the two sides have been going as pretty much any negotiating process would. Both sides have kept returning to the negotiating table to discuss the needs of workers and will continue to do so until the situation is resolved. Ruf added that the hospital must also look at its own budget, which is affected by state and federal appropriations, and prevent a situation that could be financially harmful in the future.

“Everything is going the way it is supposed to go and both sides are present at the table and are taking the steps as is typical for this process,” she said.

There was no given deadline for a contract to be reached.

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