LICH nurses grow leery as merger nears

Sonia Taylor stepped off the nurses’ picket line in front of Long Island College Hospital and tightened the hood of her red sweatshirt to combat the cold winter early afternoon.

“We have been faithfully negotiating with the hospital on our contract and we would like them to continue to honorthe contract even in light of a possible merger,” she said.

Taylor, a 25-year veteran nurse at LICH, is a member of the bargaining unit representing over 400 nurses at the hospital whose contact is up next year.

The picket line of about two dozen nurses was not so much protesting LICH’s management consortium, Continuum Health Partners (CHP) recent merger agreement with SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Flatbush, but more a request that CHP honor a clause in their current contract.

“What’s stalling negotiations is the fact the hospital has asked us to not honor the part of the contract that says whoever merges with us will respect the (current) nurses contract,” said Taylor, adding the provision is clearly in the contract which will run out in about a year.

Herdley Hill, another nurse at LICH who is part of the bargaining committee, said the problem is CHP is unwilling to come to terms with the existing contract.

“They (CHP) are not willing to compromise. We offered them language to accommodate their concerns as well as allow the nurses to have some job protection, but they want an all or nothing approach,” said Hill.

CHP spokesperson Jim Mandler responded that the hospital has the utmost respect and admiration for its nurses.

The agreement that will enable the acquisition of LICH by SUNY Downstate Medical Center will be submitted to the appropriate government agencies for final review, said Mandler.

“We anticipate this process will take several months,” he said. “In the meantime, we will continue to meet with our nurses to try and work out a mutually agreeable collective bargaining agreement.”

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