10/1/07

Nurses strike against hospitals in KY, WV

More than 800 Appalachian Regional Healthcare registered nurses in Kentucky and West Virginia went on strike at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Last week, the company gave what it called its "last, best and final offer" to the Nurses Association. It promised an initial 2% pay raise that would increase to 3% over 4 years. It also included flexible schedules to allow registered nurses to choose either 10 or 12-hour shifts.

The contract was rejected by nearly a 2 to 1 margin. Since then, ARH has not indicated any interest in furthering the weeks-long negotiations. Nurses say their main sticking point is that they're understaffed and overworked.

Kathy Ford, president of the Kentucky Nurses Association, said, "It will take (the company) actually sitting down and listening to our concerns about staffing and about manditory overtime. That's not a whole lot."

Tim Hatfield, Community CEO of Williamson ARH, said the strike will not affect health care for the region. "I really don't see a change in any type of quality of care," Hatfield said. "We have placement workers, plus some management who have previous experience of being a registered nurse. So we'll be in good shape when 12:01 rolls around."

Now that 12:01 has passed and nurses are on the picket lines, both sides appear to be in it for the long haul. The company has given its "last, best and final offer," and the union says it is simply not good enough.

ARH has nine hospitals across Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia, including facilities in South Williamson, Kentucky and Beckley, West Virginia.

Earlier this year, United Steel Workers union members at ARH went on strike for 25 days before finally agreeing to a 3-year contract. That strike included licensed practical nurses, but not registered nurses. The contract was eventually approved by nearly 80% of the union workers.

(wsaz.com)

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