Northside challenges job action

Tribune Chronicle

YOUNGSTOWN – Northside Medical Center is objecting to today’s scheduled one-day strike by its nurses, saying the intent-to-strike notice was not appropriately filed.

If the hospital’s charge with the National Labor Relations Board is found to be justified, nurses who strike could face termination, the hospital said Monday in a prepared statement.

The hospital contends the Ohio Nurses Association / Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, which represents about 430 nurses who have been working without a labor contract for more than a year at the Gypsy Lane facility, violated national labor law when it filed three separate, conflicting strike notices on Sept. 12.

According to the hospital, O.N.A.’s original notice said the nurses would strike and picket outside the hospital beginning at 8 a.m. Oct. 24. An amended notice was filed the same day stating pickets would begin instead at 8 a.m. Sept. 24. A third notice was then filed stating pickets would begin at 7 a.m. Sept. 24.

Hospital spokeswoman Trish Hrina said the amended notices violate the section of the National Labor Relations Act that spells out intent to strike notification rules governing a health care institution.

According to the act, a 10-day intent-to-strike notice is required; however, once the notice has been given, it “may be extended by the written agreement of both parties.”

“The hospital has not agreed to any of the union’s notices,” said Hrina, vice president of Marketing and Public Relations for ValleyCare Health System of Ohio, which operates Northside Medical Center. “If the O.N.A. moves forward with its strike and / or picketing tomorrow, the hospital would view such activities as unlawful.”

O.N.A. spokeswoman Molly Ackley said, nevertheless, the nurses still planned to strike this morning.

Robert Sincich, the company’s interim vice president of human resources and director of labor relations, said nurses who participate could be fired.

“Very unfortunately, by federal law, nurses who participate in an unlawful strike in violation of the strict 10-day notice requirements of Section 8 (g) could lose their employment status, until re-employed, pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act,” Sincich said. “It is irresponsible and regrettable that the O.N.A. would subject our nurses to potentially unlawful activity that could conceivably have had an impact on their employment status if the O.N.A.’s notices are deemed by the NLRB to be defective.”

The hospital said it intended to file the unfair labor practice charge Monday afternoon with the NLRB, but an information officer with the NLRB could not confirm receipt of the filing late Monday.

O.N.A. / Y.G.D.N.A. president Eric Williams said he could not comment because he had not seen the hospital’s allegation.

An unfair labor charge filed by the hospital in December alleging the nurses union had violated the same section of the federal act during a Sept. 10, 2012, informational picket was dismissed by the NLRB.

Three separate unfair labor charges filed in May and August by the union against the hospital allege hospital management is refusing to bargain in good faith and has used coercive actions and repudiation / modification of the contract. The NLRB has not determined the outcome of those charges.

Nurses at the facility have been working since July 2012 without a labor contract. Four hours of talks in recent weeks produced no agreement. One of the main sticking points involves the hospital’s demand for contract language allowing “flex staffing,” or the ability for nurses to be sent home or called back based on patient census.

Monday, three Democratic lawmakers called for the sides to head back to the bargaining table. State Reps.Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, and Ron Gerberry, D-Austintown, and Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, said they would join the picket line at 7 a.m. this morning in support of the striking nurses.

“Collective bargaining and the cooperation that it can lead to through fair negotiations is a value that runs deep in the Mahoning Valley, and I am certain that progress can be made if both sides of the current dispute make the effort to return to the negotiating table to find an agreement,” Schiavoni said.

Hospital officials said the facility will use a “professional staffing agency” to provide licensed, credentialed replacement nurses in its effort to continue all services if the one-day strike goes forward.

“The hospital will remain open with all emergency services, inpatient units and outpatient departments staffed and available for patient care. All surgeries and diagnostic procedures will continue as scheduled,” Hrina said in the prepared statement.

“The temporary nurses would work with employees who are not represented by the O.N.A. and registered nurses who choose to cross the picket line. The hospital’s medical staff will continue to treat patients in the hospital as well as in their offices,” hospital officials said.