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Ascension Borgess Hospital nurses vote to authorize strike as contract negotiations continue COURTESY OF ASCENSION BORGESS

Ascension Borgess Hospital nurses vote to authorize strike as contract negotiations continue

BY Wednesday, December 07, 2022 03:28pm

Ascension Borgess Hospital nurses have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if needed to secure a new union contract.

The Michigan Nurses Association said that 86 percent of the nurses at the Kalamazoo health system voted to authorize its bargaining team to call for a strike. The union would have to provide a 10-day strike notice.

“Our goal is to make sure that our next contract will put our hospital in a strong position to be able to retain experienced nurses and provide safe staffing on every shift,” Lori Batzloff, a nurse and president of the local bargaining unit at Ascension Borgess Hospital, said today in a statement. “Our number one priority as nurses is to always be able to provide the highest quality of patient care.”

The MNA’s last contract with Ascension Borgess expired Nov. 11. Negotiations toward a new contract were scheduled to resume Thursday, the union said. The union represents 325 nurses at Ascension Borgess. The contract only affects Borgess’s Kalamazoo hospital.

Ascension Borgess is part of St. Louis, Missouri-based Catholic health system Ascension that has 139 hospitals and 40 senior living facilities in 19 states and the District of Columbia. In the 2022 fiscal year that ended July 30, Ascension recorded $27.9 billion in total operating income with a net loss of $879.1 million.

The corporation had $6.3 billion in total operating income in the first quarter of the 2023 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 with a $118.5 million operating loss.

Executives noted in a report on the first quarter that Ascension’s “operations and volumes are still recovering from the volatility and operational disruptions of the prolonged novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. These disruptions included historic staffing challenges due to ongoing workforce shortages and elevated labor costs along with sporadic closures of surgical and procedural areas.”

The issues affecting Ascension nationally have been hitting many health systems, particularly higher labor costs that result from a staffing shortage.

Hospitals and health systems across the U.S. posted a collective median operating margin of negative 0.5 percent through October, according to health care management consulting firm Kaufman, Hall and Associates LLC.

Ascension Borgess officials say the health system will continue to negotiate over a new contract with the nurses union.

“We have presented proposals to (the) Michigan Nurses Association that are fair, responsible and address the issues they have brought forward. We remain focused on negotiating in good faith and optimistic that we will soon reach a mutually beneficial agreement on our RN contract,” Ascension Borgess said in a statement.

The Michigan Nurses Association’s statement today cited what it calls “a pattern of unfair labor practices committed by the health system.” The MNA said that Borgess hospital executives wanted unionized nurses to accept “major concessions” before they withdrew an earlier proposal last week to require nurses to work every other weekend and that would have taken away all leaves that were contractually protected.

“Time and again, Ascension executives have shown that they only respond to nurses when we speak out and show our solidarity,” said Nate Hoffman, a nurse at Ascension Borgess Hospital and member of the bargaining team. “I am truly hopeful that now that RNs have shown we are prepared to do what it takes, we will be able to reach a deal.”

An affiliate of National Nurses United and the AFL-CIO, the Michigan Nurses Association represents about 13,000 nurses and health care professionals.

Read 2112 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 December 2022 17:00
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