A labor dispute that nearly shut down some of the city’s private dialysis centers came to an end Friday with a new contract for the nurses who care for the critically-ill patients.
After three years of intense negotiations, 68 members of the New York State Nurses Association voted overwhelmingly in favor of the latest contract offer from Fresenius Medical Care.
The deal gave the NYSNA workers increased pay and protects their employer-paid union pension and health funds.
But the biggest win, according to Eric Smith, area director for NYSNA, was the inclusion of nurses voices on issues critical to patients’ care.
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The contract with Fresenius calls for the creation of a special committee that will assess staffing, patient services and other vital issues related to caring for people with end-stage renal disease, said Smith.
Nurses fought for the creation of the committee and also make sure their input — as the people doing the work — was included. They will comprise 50% of the panel, Smith said.
In addition, a third-party arbitrator can be called in if there are any worker-employer disputes, NYSNA said.
“This really is a win for everyone especially our patients. This new contract ensures safe staffing, allows us to retain and attract the best of the best with fair benefits, and gives us a voice in how we care for our patients,” said Gloria O’Neill, a registered nurse who works in a Fresenius Brooklyn clinic.
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The NYSNA deal also grants nurses an 8.25% raise over the lifetime of the three-year contract.
Fresenius also inked a contract with 1199 SEIU last week, which represents several hundred other clinic workers.
The negotiations stretched over three years and two continents, with a contingent of clinic workers flying to Germany where Fresenius is headquartered to talk to its union employees there.
The trip paid off, NYSNA said, with the German union applying pressure at the highest-level of the company.
“This contract raised the bar for safe staffing, patient safety and an RN’s voice on the job. We accomplished what we wanted when we started this campaign,” said Smith.
“This is a huge win for the patients that the RNs treat, and for our profession.”
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