Nurses at Long Island College Hospital took to the street in front of the Cobble Hill medical center on Wednesday, alleging that the financially flatlining institution is tinkering with their contracts as it braces for new ownership.
The union nurses say that their employer is trying to back out of a commitment to preserve their jobs during the transition from the current operator Continuum Health Partners to SUNY Downstate Medical Center, whose takeover is awaiting an expected state approval.
“They’re asking to remove language in the contract that was designed specifically for situations like this!” said Herdley Hill, a nurse who has worked at the hospital for 11 years.
LICH released a statement reaffirming its “respect and admiration” for the nurses, but did not address the sticking point of the negotiations, nor did it make any indications that the showdown will be resolved anytime soon.
“We anticipate [the merger with SUNY Downstate] will take several months,” the statement read. “In the meantime, we will continue to meet with our nurses to work out a mutually agreeable collective-bargaining agreement.”
But Hill said that contractual negations had reached an impasse.
“Continuum seems to be honoring a request from SUNY,” Hill said. “They haven’t given us a rationale [for the elimination of the job security clause]. They’re not willing to negotiate!”
The irate nurses are yet another problem for LICH, which was on the brink of financial ruin until it sealed the deal last week on a merger with SUNY Downstate, which is in Crown Heights.
Roughly 500 nurses at LICH are members of the union, according to union spokeswoman Randi Hoffman.
Continuum and union representatives are expected to reconvene on Feb. 11, though nurses were not optimistic for a breakthrough.
“We would hate to go to arbitration,” said Hill. “But we’ll do whatever it takes for as long as it takes.”