Nurses at Community Health System’s Northside Medical Center can celebrate an important victory in the ongoing struggle to protect our rights. The Ohio Nurses Association recently won an arbitration award enforcing our seniority rights when the Hospital engages in mandatory downstaffing!
Under the contract, when the Hospital has a low census or is experiencing low procedure volume, and an insufficient number of nurses volunteer to go home early, management is allowed to send some nurses home without pay. This practice is often referred to as downstaffing. The contract establishes a clear and orderly process that must be followed: the least senior nurse within a given department should be downstaffed on a rotating basis. However, in March and August of last year, Hospital management ignored this provision and forced nurses to go home without pay AND without regard to seniority.
The Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, a local of the Ohio Nurses Association, filed a grievance demanding that the Hospital cease and desist this practice. We also demanded full compensation for those nurses who had been improperly sent home. Hospital management denied the grievance at each step of the process, until finally the grievance was presented to an Arbitrator – a neutral third party with authority to issue a final and binding decision. The Arbitrator found that the contract language at issue in the case was “not ambiguous” and provided that “downstaffing is to be visited upon Nurses who have accumulated the least Department seniority.” He also directed the Hospital to make up any lost wages or use of paid time-off for the nurses who had been impacted by Hospital management’s decision to downstaff without due regard to seniority.
Our Union has fought for the rights guaranteed by our collective bargaining agreement. When those rights are ignored or threatened, we stand together and defend them!
By Bobby Holt, Labor Representative, Ohio Nurses Association