Kaleida Healthcare Workers Picket for Change

June 6, 2011 Updated Jun 6, 2011 at 12:46 PM EDT

By Jaclyn Asztalos

June 6, 2011 Updated Jun 6, 2011 at 12:46 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW) It was a surprising turnout on High Street in Buffalo as Kaleida Health workers picketed to fight the proposed union contract.

"We're telling Kaleida that the proposed changes to the contract are unacceptable," Union Representative Jim Scordato said.

Kaleida employees said these changes would have major effects on their lives.

"As health care workers, many of us do not get health insurance for pensions and to make us pay more for health insurance does seem fair," Employee Terri Schelter said.

Union Representative and long-time nurse John Klein said the changes would hit employees' wallets hard.

"It s $20 million dollars in take-backs and that about $600 to $1200 in take home pay per month, per person. It's life altering," Klein said.

Scordato said they are also fighting to make sure employees have the resourced need to do their job and do it right.

"Changes that we're trying to make have to do with staffing and improved staffing. A lot of our members that work hard and when the case load gets high we want to make sure Kaleida is bringing in the proper staff they need," Scordato said.

Kaleida Representative Mike Hughes said the protest and these concerns are premature.

"The timing of the informational picket is unusual. The unions have not presented any of their economic proposals so that would include wages and benefits," Hughes said.

This protest comes just about a week after the union contract was set to expire but Kaleida made an extension until June 17th in hopes of coming up with an agreement.

"We're working on an agreement that's fair but also addresses some of the challenges in the healthcare industry," Hughes said.

Retired Employee Pat McCarthy said it took 25 years to get to where Kaleida is now in terms of a contract but she said things are headed in the wrong direction.

"Now, what they are proposing takes us back to the 60's," McCarthy said.

"Kaleida employee said they would fight until they get what they call their "fair share".