The public benefit corporation that runs Nassau University Medical Center has ratified a new four-year labor agreement with more than 3,000 union employees that grants raises totaling 8 percent over four years and retains a no-layoff clause.
According to a fact sheet from the Nassau Civil Service Employees Association and NuHealth, workers will get a 1 percent raise for 2019, a 3% increase in 2020, 2% in 2021 and 2% in 2022.
A no-layoff clause from a prior agreement will remain "in full force and effect," according to the fact sheet.
The agreement will be in effect at NuHealth's two facilities: NUMC in East Meadow and the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale.
The NuHealth board approved the agreement in a 7-0 vote Tuesday night. Trustee Ryan Cronin, a commercial litigator and former Democratic candidate for State Senate, abstained. Cronin was appointed by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat.
The prior contract expired at the end of 2018.
The ratification vote comes as Nassau County is negotiating union contracts with its five major unions that expired at the end of 2017.
The county has no formal role in ratifying NuHealth collective bargaining agreements, but backs $188 million in hospital debt.
NUMC posted a $46.6 million operating loss in 2018, compared with a loss of $25.7 million in 2017.
CSEA employees approved the contract Tuesday night by a vote of 1,311-13, said Jerry Laricchiuta, CSEA Nassau County Local 830 president.
Dozens of union employees packed a board room on the hospital's 19th floor Wednesday night. Outside, a union truck displayed a video message urging NuHealth board members to "Vote Yes" on the contract because "Your employees are counting on you!"
George Tsunis, chairman of NuHealth, the public benefit corporation, told those in the room that the contract was "hard fought."
“It’s a very special type of person that comes to work at a disproportionate share public safety net hospital," Tsunis said. "There is more money, more recognition, and it’s a lot easier conditions to go work in other places.”
In addition to the no-layoff clause, which includes some exceptions, the agreement allows:
- NuHealth to explore alternative health insurance plans without reducing benefits to employees. If NuHealth cannot achieve savings of at least 10% through alternative plans, new hires may be required to contribute 10% percent of their health care premiums.
- Employees to participate in a legal plan and dental plan.
- Employees to take advantage of a more generous health insurance buyback option. Individual employees will receive checks for $3,000, compared with the current $500, if they forgo the hospital's health care plan in exchange for being on another family member's plan. Payments to employees on the family plan go from the current $2,000 to $5,000.
“It's a fair contract. It isn't overwhelming. We got respectful raises," Laricchiuta said in an interview. He noted that in some previous years, the union had agreed to keep wages flat in order "to keep that hospital open.”
Laricchiuta said county officials opposed the timing of the contract vote, asserting it could complicate contract negotiations with county unions.
“There was a lot of resistance … from the county on this, and I think that’s totally outrageous,” Laricchiuta said. "Our biggest hurdle wasn't the hospital, it was the county."
Curran administration officials did not address Laricchiuta's comments directly.
In a statement, Curran said the NuHealth board approved raises for "hardworking employees. We support the employees and the good work they do. Access to health care is one of my highest priorities. The hospital must continue to operate to provide care. It needs a viable financial plan."
NuHealth had a $587.6 million operating budget last year.