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Catholic Health leader "optimistic" deal will be reached in strike

"We are committed to getting a fair contract"
mark sullivan.jpg
Posted at 7:50 PM, Oct 06, 2021

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Catholic Health is calling on the community to tell the union to end the strike at Mercy Hospital in south Buffalo.

Catholic Health CEO Mark Sullivan says he's optimistic a deal will be reached soon to end the strike here at mercy hospital that’s now stretched into day six.

Catholic Health CEO Mark Sullivan.

“We are committed to getting a fair contract for the CWA very soon," Sullvian.

Sullivan appeared Wednesday inside Mercy Hospital to give an updated to the media on contract talks.

Sullivan says he believes catholic health has offered a fair proposal to the union that addresses the big concern of staffing.

There is still no deal and the strike by about 1,900 workers marches on. They walked-off the job October 1.

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Striking health care workers at Mercy Hospital.

Sullivan says the latest offer calls for adding 250-new positions, adding 10-percent to staff and $20-million in bonus pay for staffers.

But Catholic Health took out a full page ad in the Buffalo News. And states that the 2016 contract with Catholic Health promised staffing language, but the union says the management failed to live up to the life of the contract.

I asked Sullivan to address the issue. He says they were following those staffing issues until the pandemic hit.

“We’ve never stopped trying to address staffing. We are a victim of this as much as the CWA members. We’ve been dedicated to trying to hire staff. We could not hire staff just like we are now and that's when that started,” Sullivan responded.

Sullivan is calling on government leaders and policy makers to help with staffing issues. Sullivan says he blames the union for the strike. He says it didn't have to happen and only the CWA can end it.

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Striking Mercy Hospital workers.

Sullivan said the strike is also having a difficult effect on local hospitals.

“This strike is straining other area hospitals, emergency rooms, and that did not have to happen. The emergency departments and other Catholic Health hospitals, and Kaleida Health and ECMC are overflowing because of this strike. It is a challenge to staff a hospital when there isn't a strike. It's even more of a challenge to do that during a strike. Only the CWA can end the strike,” Sullivan noted.

But outside the hospital striking workers are still walking the picket lines.

The union has not held any updates today, but last night said they were still far apart on the staffing issues with Catholic Health.

The president of CWA Local 1133 tells me "there is no movement" on their end.

The union issued this statement in response to Catholic Health's remarks Wednesday.

In response to Catholic Health’s press conference today, Jennifer Williams, a charge nurse who has worked at Mercy Hospital for 14 years, issued the following statement:

“The reason the staffing crisis at Catholic Health is so extreme is because the hospital system kept punting on the concerns we were raising and didn’t take negotiations seriously until the 11th hour. Catholic Health got us into this crisis and they have the power to get us out of it, and we will be on strike until we have a fair contract that addresses the deteriorating staffing conditions and ensures we don’t get to this point again. Frontline Catholic Health workers are united in our concerns about staffing and determined to fight until the issue is addressed satisfactorily. Mark Sullivan would know that if he came to talk with us on the picket line or at the bargaining table.”