Littauer Hospital, nurses at odds

GLOVERSVILLE – Nathan Littauer Hospital and the union representing its nurses are struggling to reach agreement on a new contract.

The hospital is accusing nurses union representatives of showing bad faith in collective bargaining for staff nurses.

Nathan Littauer filed an unfair labor- practice charge with the Albany office of the National Labor Relations Board against the New York State Nurses Association, a union representing roughly 37,000 nurses statewide.

The hospital alleges the union is engaging in “regressive bargaining” and other improper tactics during negotiations, according to a statement from the hospital.

“We are frustrated. I think this is something we need to do to get negotiations moving,” Laurence E. Kelly, hospital president and CEO, said in the statement. “These negotiations are not about playing games. Our nurses are not pawns to be used in a larger union recruitment effort. Our priorities have always been to provide fair wages and benefits to our nurses and to all of our employees. We have not wavered. Littauer is a proud team of exceptional people working together for the good of our patients.”

In a statement from the association, Communications Director Eliza Bates said the hospital’s accusations have no merit.

“Management at Nathan Littauer should stop spending vital patient-care resources on fighting its own caregivers and instead work together with nurses to focus on providing the very best care to our patients,” Bates said.

NYSNA, Bates said, represents 138 employees at the hospital.

The last contract, which went into effect in November 2011, expired Dec. 31.

Nathan Littauer Vice President of Public Relations Cheryl McGrattan defined regressive bargaining as putting offers on the table that were “leading [the two parties] further away from agreement.”

Bargaining negotiations between the hospital and association began in November, and 14 sessions were held as of Monday. The statement said the chief negotiator for NASNY was replaced with Thomas Darby, a New York City negotiator.

“With the arrival of Mr. Darby, the union presented drastically more expensive proposals than it originally proposed, and the tone of their rhetoric became decidedly more hostile,” the statement said.

The union is demanding roughly $5.1 million in additional benefits over the life of a three-year contract, according to the hospital.

Lana Wydra, vice president of human resources, said in the hospital’s statement, “I have not seen anything like these negotiations. We have been serious about the negotiation process from the beginning. Unfortunately, the union has made every effort to move the parties farther apart from reaching a fair and reasonable agreement. It has instead made unrealistic and New York City-type proposals that would cost our small community hospital millions of dollars more each year. We have made our offer and even accepted some of their proposals. But they are now going back on previous terms and asking for more. That is the very definition of regression.”

According to the statement, “in reaction to threats of job actions and a strike,” the hospital has contracted with a national staffing company that specializes in providing replacement nurses from around the country when a hospital experiences a strike. The company has toured the facility and met with managers. The hospital and company created a contingency plan to staff the hospital with registered nurses if a strike were to occur.

“A strike is the last thing we want. But we must be ready to provide seamless care to our patients who rely on us,” Regina Mulligan, Nathan Littauer’s vice president of nursing services, said in the statement.

According to the NLRB website, the NLRB regional director investigates charges.