The deadline for negotiations between Rochester General Hospital (RGH) and the union representing nearly 900 nurses and allied professionals has passed without an agreement. As a result, the nurses initiated a two-day strike that ended Saturday.
The union, known as , is advocating for a contract that includes a wage increase over the next five years. According to the Democrat & Chronicle, the union said that the nurses strive to bring attention to their ongoing concerns for what they described as "inadequate staffing levels and unsafe working conditions" and to prompt immediate action from hospital management.
ZipRecruiter reported that as of July 2023, the average hourly pay for an RN in Rochester is $39.46 an hour compared to the national average of $44. The average pay for a Registered Nurse at RGH is 32.61 according to Indeed.com
Rochester Regional Health(RRH) — an affiliate of RGH released a statement regarding the strike, stating that they have increased nurses' base wages by an average of 19% since January 2020. Hospital officials and the union plan to return to the bargaining table soon.
RRH is forecasting a $150 million loss this year and the strike will worsen the loss. News10NBC spoke with Shari McDonald, chief nursing officer at Rochester General Hospital, on Thursday morning about how the hospital is preparing for the strike. “We are here for our community, our doors are open, our services are ongoing, and I am confident that the care will be provided without any clinical compromise,” she said.
RRH stated that it provides health care services to approximately half the population of the Rochester area. In addition, in 2022 alone, RRH provided more than $265 million in uncompensated care to our community. If all of RUNAP’s proposals were agreed to, the cost could require us to reduce our community programs and charitable support across the region.
However, Nurse Claire Gardner criticizes the allocation of funds, suggesting that the money could be better utilized to support the nurses who have remained dedicated throughout the pandemic and have experienced a decline in benefits and quality of care over the past decade News Team 10 reported.
Local politicians are showing their support for the strike.
Senator Jeremy Cooney tweeted, "Walked the picket line on Day 1 of the @runapunion strike at RGH. We stand with our nurse heroes in solidarity as they negotiate with the hospital for safe work conditions.
Assemblywoman Sarah Clark tweeted, "Nurses are the backbone and lifeblood of our healthcare system. Today I joined our RGH nurses on the strike line fighting for a fair contract. I stand alongside all our labor brothers and sisters in solidarity with our nurses.
Monroe County Legislator Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman (D-Rochester), issued a statement calling for action. “I’m utterly disappointed that RGH management continues act in bad faith. I stand in solidarity with the nurses fighting for quality care and call on management to engage in good faith negotiations with these essential workers. I support their right to strike and deeply honor the labor rights workers fought and died for in this country.” She added “The right of workers to organize is fundamental to ensuring a safe, quality workplace and hospital for us all.”
In a letter addressed to the community, Rochester Regional Health assures patients with scheduled appointments that they should still attend their procedures, tests, or exams at RGH. Additionally, CEO Chip Davis assures that emergency department services will remain accessible during the strike.
RRH's full statement is below:
“We are deeply disappointed that the leadership of the Rochester Union of Nurses and Allied Professionals (RUNAP) has taken their membership out on strike.
RGH did not want this strike and we believe nothing we have proposed or haven’t proposed in our negotiations with RUNAP warranted this strike. RUNAP’s leadership is conducting a strike when RGH’s proposals at the bargaining table have sought to ensure our units are appropriately staffed, continue providing competitive pay and benefits and ensure we are able to provide our patients with the best possible care. In fact, at our recent bargaining sessions, RGH moved substantially on numerous issues, including wages and staffing, which the union has indicated are two of their most important issues.
A number of RUNAP-represented nurses have decided not to join the strike and are on the job for their scheduled shifts. Our nurses are essential to our ability to provide the highest quality care, and we are grateful for their commitment to their patients and to RGH.
We have also contracted with a nationally respected agency to hire temporary replacement nurses who have been carefully screened, selected and trained on RGH’s systems and protocols. All replacement nurses meet, or exceed, licensing and credentialing requirements. We are confident in their clinical expertise and ability to work alongside our nurse leadership, physicians and other staff to deliver outstanding patient care.
RGH has already spent millions of non-refundable dollars securing expert, safe patient care during this RUNAP strike. Patients with scheduled procedures, treatment and exams should plan to visit RGH at their scheduled appointment and should expect to receive the excellent care they have come to expect from RGH. In addition, any patient requiring use of RGH’s Emergency Department should continue to do so. It’s also important to note that none of RRH’s other hospitals or locations are affected in any way by the strike at RGH.
We recently recommended the involvement of Federal Mediators who joined us at our bargaining sessions on July 13, July 19, August 1 and August 2 to try to avert the strike and reach an agreement. And, in many of our recent proposals, we adopted much of the union’s language.
It’s also important to remember that, since January 2020, we had already increased nurse base wages by an average of 19%. If the union had accepted our most recent wage proposal of an average 7.8% increase for the first year of the contract, that would’ve equated to a more than 26% average increase in a little over three-and-a-half years. On the other hand, RUNAP’s most recent proposals would make RGH’s nurses among the highest paid in the entire country.
If RGH were to agree to everything RUNAP wanted around wages, staffing and benefits, it would cost Rochester Regional Health (RRH) more than $111 million for just the first year of the contract. Given that RRH is already projecting a $150 million loss this year, and anticipates further losses into 2024, that would be irresponsible.
RRH provides health care services to approximately half the population of the Rochester area. In addition, in 2022 alone, RRH provided more than $265 million in uncompensated care to our community. If all of RUNAP’s proposals were agreed to, the cost could require us to reduce our community programs and charitable support across the region.