More than 400 healthcare workers at Guthrie Corning Hospital are celebrating a victory this week! Unionized healthcare workers reached an agreement with management before their current contract was set to expire on April 30, 2022, following a one-year extension. Yesterday, workers overwhelmingly voted to ratify the 3-year agreement. Caregivers are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
“The challenging events over the past couple of years in healthcare have caused our partnership with our Union colleagues to become even stronger as we navigated the nearly constant changes related to COVID,” says Felissa Koernig, President, Guthrie Corning Hospital. “I’m pleased that partnership is evidenced in the agreement that we reached last week, demonstrating how much we appreciate the caregivers that work at Guthrie Corning Hospital,” says Koernig.
“We sat and discussed what we needed,” says Dawn Vargeson, Registered Nurse at Guthrie Corning for 34 years. “Our members were able to express concerns and management heard them! Negotiations with management were amicable. We were surprised how quickly we came to an agreement. We are here to take care of our patients and we worked together to make our contract better for our members and our hospital,” says Vargeson.
Highlights of the three-year agreement include a general wage increase in excess of 9% over the life of the contract and adjustments to pay grades covering more than 150 caregivers in order to meet market demands and to help with retention of healthcare workers at the hospital in Corning. Caregivers not covered by wage adjustments over the past 12 months will receive a lump sum payment in mid-July. On-call pay and shift differentials were negotiated to recognize and attract caregivers who work non-traditional hours and ensure the hospital is competitive with area healthcare facilities.
In addition to wage increases and the lump sum payment, Guthrie Corning Hospital will recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, and New York State paid sick leave was also included in the new agreement.
“I’m proud of the collaborative environment that was present in these negotiations,” says Allison Strife, Manager, Employee and Labor Relations at Guthrie. “While there may have been differing thoughts and ideas on some issues, the common thread that both management and the Union came back to was enhancing both caregiver and patient satisfaction. That, coupled with the respect and compassion that Guthrie believes should be exhibited in all interactions, led to us achieving a fair agreement in a historic timeframe,” says Strife.
“This is the first time we ever settled a contract before its expiration date,” says Peggy Clarkson, Emergency Room Unit Clerk and 49-year employee. “This is definitely the year for healthcare workers to move forward and to be appreciated for everything that we do. This is for everyone in healthcare – from service workers to clerical workers and dietary. We were there when people needed us and when the community needed us,” says Clarkson.
The three-year agreement is effective from May 1, 2022, through April 30, 2025 and covers Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Physical Therapy Assistants, Technicians, Care Partners, Clerical Workers, Unit Clerks, Environmental Services Workers, Food and Nutrition Workers, Maintenance Mechanics and others.
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