NY nurses reach deals with some hospitals, but nearly 10,000 nurses poised to strike Monday

Nurses are prepared to walk out of city hospitals on Jan. 9 if they don’t get agreements. Hospitals are preparing for a walkout, including delaying procedures and transferring patients.

Nurses in New York City have now brokered tentative agreements with four hospitals, but nearly 10,000 nurses at four facilities are set to go on strike Monday.

The New York State Nurses Association said Friday that nurses are prepared to go on strike unless they get agreements to address their needs on staffing and compensation. At a news conference Friday morning, the nurses' union said they have yet to broker a deal with those hospitals but are willing to talk throughout the weekend.

Nurses plan to walk out at these hospitals: BronxCare Health System, Montefiore Bronx, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Mount Sinai Morningside and West. The nurses have not said how long the strike would last.

Hospitals have said they are making preparations for a strike, including transferring patients, postponing some surgeries and diverting ambulances. The organizations say they are striving to reach a fair agreement with the nurses.

The union said Friday night that nurses have come to a tentative deal with Flushing Hospital Medical Center. Over the last week, the New York State Nurses Association has reached tentative deals with Maimonides Medical Center, Richmond University Medical Center, and NewYork-Presybterian Hospital.

Nancy Hagans, a registered nurse at Maimonides Medical Center and president of the New York State Nurses Association, said in a press conference Friday that nurses hope to avoid a strike. But she said nurses are willing to walk if they don’t get an agreement that addresses their demands for better staffing and higher wages. The union has held daily press briefings this week.

“Come to the table,” Hagans said. “Negotiate a fair contract that would allow safe nurse-patient ratios. Time is ticking but there is still time.”

If a strike occurs, the nurses will walk out at 6 a.m. Monday, Jan. 9, the union said.

In late December, about 17,000 nurses at eight New York City hospitals overwhelmingly approved a strike authorization vote.

Hagans said agreements on better nurse-patient staffing ratios remain the key sticking point in reaching an agreement with the other hospitals.

Nurses also want to be sure that staffing agreements are enforced and aren’t simply ignored, said Pat Kane, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association. Nurses are seeking better enforcement mechanisms to ensure appropriate staffing and won’t settle for “something on paper that doesn’t translate to reality,” Kane said.

Hospitals: ‘Generous offer’

Joe Solmonese, senior vice president at Montefiore, said Wednesday the organization has made a “generous offer” to reach an agreement, even though the system is losing money in the pandemic.

"New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) leadership at Montefiore refuses to come to an agreement despite a generous offer that includes an 18% wage increase, fully funded healthcare for life, and a significant increase in registered nurses in the emergency departments, among other benefits,"  Solmonese said in a statement.

"This equitable offer mirrors the tentative agreement NYSNA union leadership reached with New York Presbyterian, even as we continue to face significant financial challenges from COVID-19,” he continued. “Montefiore lost nearly $600 million over the course of the pandemic. Last year alone, we lost $200 million. New York Presbyterian, on the other hand, posted net profits of roughly $200 million in 2022. Despite the financial challenges that we continue to face, we believe that our nurses’ work has equal value to that of their colleagues in neighboring systems."

At the press conference Thursday, Hagans countered that Montefiore paid nearly $28 million in salaries, bonuses and perks to the organization’s top earners. If executives can be paid so well, Hagans said Montefiore can’t “cry broke” in reaching a deal with the nurses.

Mount Sinai Hospital has begun diverting some ambulances away from its facilities and is postponing some elected surgeries, officials said.

The system is also transferring some patients, including babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, to ensure they get appropriate care. And Mount Sinai is aiming to discharge as many patients as possible.

Mount Sinai said it continues to negotiate with the union and hopes to reach a fair agreement with the nurses.

Ken Raske of the Greater New York Hospital Association told NBC New York that if a strike takes place, "It could be an enormous public health calamity." Raske told NBC New York the mood among hospital managers is "extremely apprehensive."

Tentative deals

The New York State Nurses Association announced Friday night that it had struck a tentative deal on a three-year contract for about 470 nurses with Flushing Hospital. The pact calls for a 7% raise the first year, a 6% bump in the second year, and a 5% raise in the third year of the pact. The union said the deal also meets the union's demands for safe staffing.

The association and Maimonides Medical Center announced Thursday that they had reached a tentative deal on a new contract for about 1,300 nurses. The union said Friday night that nurses with Maimonides had ratified the deal.

The agreement with Maimonides would raise wages by 19.1% over three years and improve staffing ratios, the two sides said. The pact, which must be ratified by the nurses, also includes better enforcement of staffing levels and a dispute resolution process, the two sides said.

Maimonides Health CEO Ken Gibbs and Hagans said in a joint statement they were pleased with the deal.

“We believe this agreement is fair and respects the needs of all parties while also helping us better serve our patients,” Gibbs and Hagans said. “We look forward to continuing our productive relationship so we can meet the needs of our patients, community, and staff here at Maimonides.”

About 4,000 nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian continue to vote on a tentative agreement reached Dec. 31, just hours before their contract was set to expire. The deal would include a 19.5% raise over the three years of the new pact, along with improved staffing standards and enforcement measures, the union said.

NewYork-Presbyterian nurses are slated to complete their vote on ratifying the contract Saturday. Nurses are slated to complete ratification votes at Richmond University and Flushing Hospital on Monday.

The Minnesota Nurses Association led the largest nursing strike in U.S. history in September, when 15,000 nurses engaged in a three-day strike. The Minnesota nurses were set to begin a second strike last month, but the union and health systems reached an agreement on a new contract and the planned walkout was averted. The nurses received raises of 17%-18% over the three-year pact and greater say in staffing.

Nurses across the country have increasingly voiced their dissatisfaction with hospitals and health systems. Some nurses have said they don’t feel valued by their employers.

Hospitals said they are struggling to cope with the nursing shortage, and health system leaders have said the lack of staffing has led them to reduce some services.

Health system leaders said 2022 was one of the worst financial years on record for hospitals, and they pointed to higher labor costs as a key factor. Labor expenses at American hospitals and health systems rose 37% per patient between 2019 and March 2022, according to a report from Kaufman Hall, a healthcare consulting firm.

Industry analysts have said healthcare leaders should plan for higher labor costs in the future.

(This story has been updated.)