Nurses at St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown are negotiating for increased pay and higher staffing levels as their current contract is set to expire Monday.
The New York State Nurses Association union said its roughly 400 members at the 296-bed Catholic Health hospital earn less than their counterparts at other Suffolk County hospitals. The base salary for registered nurses at St. Catherine is $90,628, and St. Catherine has more than 100 vacancies for nursing jobs, NYSNA said.
The union said its members have been negotiating since May. NYSNA said more than 100 nurses held a march on Thursday at the offices of the hospital’s management, carrying signs that read, “safe staffing saves lives” and “I’m ready to do whatever it takes to win a fair contract."
Tammy Miller, a nurse at St. Catherine and NYSNA union president at the hospital, said in a statement, “we need safe staffing levels and improved wages and benefits to stop the hemorrhage of nurses leaving our hospital. Nurses want to serve in this community, but they need a reason to stay.”
In a statement on Thursday, Rockville Centre-based Catholic Health said the hospital “has made significant offers on wages, staffing and other important topics” during bargaining sessions. The hospital, Catholic Health said, “remains committed to meeting with NYSNA, continuing to bargain in good faith and achieving a fair contract.”
Several Long Island hospitals have agreed to significant pay raises for unionized nurses this year, as nurses say they face high rates of turnover and burnout stemming in part from the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the region starting in early 2020.
Last month, NYSNA approved a new contract for nurses at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson that included a 20.5% pay increase over three years and nurse-to-patient ratios of 6 to 1 in medical/surgical units and 2 to 1 in critical care units, among other provisions. The contract approval came five days after the union delivered a notice to St. Charles warning that a strike could begin in 10 days.
Nurses at St. Charles now earn a starting salary of $93,510, up from $88,216 under the previous contract, NYSNA said.
NYSNA is the largest nurses' union in New York, with more than 42,000 members.
The union’s members at Northwell Health's South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore voted in February to approve a new contract that raised their salaries 19% over three years and expedited arbitration of staffing disputes, three days before a strike was scheduled to begin. Nurses' starting salary at South Shore is now $99,476, the union said. In January, nurses at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside voted to join NYSNA.