BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Union workers at Kaleida health are preparing to go to battle to reach a new deal.
Workers from three unions held a noon rally outside of Kaleida's hospitals in downtown Buffalo Friday. Workers are fighting for more staffing, better wages and improved patient care.
Union solidarity poured out along High Street across from Kaleida's Oishei Children's Hospital and Buffalo General as city fire fighters sounded alarms in support of workers.
7,200 Kaleida employees are represented by three different unions, CWA Local 1168, 1199 SEIU & IUOE Local 17. Contracts for nurses, LPN’s, service workers and other health care employees expired last week.
“The patient is our purpose and the union is our voice,” declared Cori Gambini, president, CWA Local 1168.
Gambini says the unions have held close to 50-bargaining sessions with Kaleida, negotiating 'in good faith' over the last four months, and there's still no new deal.
Workers say this is about more than just money. They say they are often told to just ‘do the best they can with what they have’.
“The only thing that scares me as about being nurse – is not having what I need to get the job done,” said Tamara Simpson, Kaleida RN.
The union claims there are big staffing shortages from nurses to cleaning to dietary staff.. Mary Knowocien is a long-term care nurse at Kaleida's Degraff hospital in North Tonawanda where she says there are staffing shortages.
“How much of a determent is that to patient care?” Buckley asked.
“Hugh risk – increase in mortality. Nurses are missing patients that conditions decline – because they are so busy and spread so thin,” responded Knowcien.
Kaleida's chief of staff Michael Hughes issued the following written statement in response to the unions rally.
"We will continue to negotiate in good faith in an effort to reach agreement on a new contract that is fair and reasonable, allows us to invest in our workforce and positions the organization to continue to deliver the highest quality of care for our community well into the future," Hughes wrote.
The unions and Kaleida are scheduled return to the bargaining table Monday.
The unions will also hold an information picket July 10th.