Nurses at Montefiore Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital ended their three-day strike and returned to work Thursday morning after reaching a tentative late-night agreement with both hospitals for improved staffing standards at the hospitals, along with a 19% wage increase over three years.
The deal, pending a ratification vote, meant that more than 7,000 nurses returned to work at 7 a.m. Thursday. The nurses, who are members of the New York State Nurses Association, had been on strike since Monday morning after talks with both hospitals about staffing ratios stalled over the weekend.
“Through our unity and by putting it all on the line, we won enforceable safe staffing ratios at both Montefiore and Mount Sinai where nurses went on strike for patient care,” NYSNA President Nancy Hagans said in a statement. “Today, we can return to work with our heads held high, knowing that our victory means safer care for our patients and more sustainable jobs for our profession.”
Montefiore and Mount Sinai agreed to terms for staffing ratios similar to those ratified by nurses at eight other city hospitals that averted a strike last week — including Mount Sinai’s Morningside and West campuses.
The two hospitals said in separate statements ahead of a union press conference about the deal scheduled for later on Thursday morning that they welcomed their tentative agreements with the union.
“It is fair and responsible, and it puts patients first,” Frances Cartwright, the chief nursing officer and senior vice president at Mount Sinai, said in a statement.
‘A Better Environment’
At around 3 a.m. Thursday, Montefiore announced it would add more than 170 new nursing positions and new safe staffing ratios in its emergency department — with fines for failing to comply with those ratios.
The union has yet to hammer out the specifics about enforcement of the new staffing ratios, Hagans said during a virtual press conference Thursday afternoon, but will hammer those out in the coming hours and days. Among the options on the table: Management paying fines directly to nurses left to cover understaffed units.
“When you come to work, and if your unit needed five nurses but you end up working with four nurses, that would be when the penalty would kick in,” Hagans said.
“How that would be operationalized is a detail that we will be able to provide at a later time,” she added.
Hagans also said the union has no intention, at this point, of withdrawing the unfair labor practice charges it filed with the federal National Labor Relations Board against Mount Sinai and Montefiore as recently as yesterday.
“We came to these bargaining sessions with great respect for our nurses and with proposals that reflect their priorities in terms of wages, benefits, safety, and staffing,” said Dr. Philip O. Ozuah, the president and CEO of Montefiore. “We are pleased to offer a 19% wage increase, benefits that match or exceed those of our peer institutions, more than 170 new nursing positions and a generous plan to address recruitment and retention.
“We are grateful for the dedication and commitment of our nurses who have served through very challenging circumstances over the past several years,” he added.
Mount Sinai also agreed to immediately improved staffing ratios and 19% wage increases over the three-year life of the contract, according to the union.
Gov. Kathy Hochul greeted nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side early Thursday morning to congratulate them as they returned to work.
“We were in constant communication with the nurses and the administration – coming to a resolution to get thousands of nurses back on the job where they want to be, but in a way that’s going to be safer for our patients,” she said.
“With new staffing ratios, it’s going to be a better environment for them, because our nurses — even before the pandemic, but my God during that pandemic — they suffered. They worked so hard. They saw such death and devastation — and they just kept showing up.”