Kaleida Health and Labor Unions Reach Tentative Agreement

June 20, 2013 Updated Jun 20, 2013 at 6:50 PM EDT

By Mitch Simon

June 20, 2013 Updated Jun 20, 2013 at 6:50 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) -- A potential health care crisis, narrowly averted in Western New York.

One day before the contract expired, Kaleida and three labor unions that cover more than seven-thousand people reached a deal.

On Thursday, unions had planned to make final preparations before walking the picket line.

Then, a deal was reached shortly after two in the morning, closing a $70-million gap.

The deal came after more than three months of negotiations.

Kaleida Health and its three labor unions agreed on a 400-page, three-year contract.

"It was a victory for our membership, and a victory for the community also. Kaleida came out with a lot of items that I think they wanted," said Jim Scordato, Vice President of WNY Hospital Division, SEIU 1199.

This comes at a time of increasing health care costs and changes in the medical system.

Jim Kaskie, President & CEO of Kaleida Health, says they have to "redesign the delivery of care, change the economics of care and we have to work within patient of our center to do the very best job using very precious resources that the community provides."

The unions and Kaleida both call the deal a win for workers. It includes wage increases, pension improvements, a look at how to improve staffing and changes to time-off.

The contract is also more specific for employees at different Kaleida Health facilities. Workers did not want to be lumped together anymore.

Overnight came a resolution to the big sticking point. "To a person who came into the room those three days to vote, it was loud and clear, do not touch the medical insurance," Scorado explains.

Union representatives say the original contract planned to make it harder for members to seek health care outside of Kaleida. In this contract, they have more of a choice.

"So they stay within the Blue Cross family, and they have the choices within this are the aligned choice, or the advantageous choice, and continuation within the existing Blue Cross traditional plan," Kaskie explains.

Unions plan to hold informational meetings for their members in the next few weeks.

A vote is expected to take place at the end of July.