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UFT nurses ratify 2-year contract with VNSNY

Cara Metz

Marie Ledain, a nurse in Brooklyn, casts her vote for the new Visiting Nurse Service of New York contract.

After contentious negotiations that brought the union to the brink of a strike, Federation of Nurses/UFT members who work for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York on Jan. 30 voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new two-year contract that preserves their hard-fought rights and benefits.

Under the new contract, which covers more than 800 VNSNY registered nurses, nurses will receive a 1.75 percent raise effective July 1, 2018 and a 2 percent increase on April 1, 2019. VNSNY also agreed to make additional contributions to the employee health plan.

“To be able to maintain what we have is great,” VNSNY nurse Annette Maldonado said after voting at UFT headquarters. “So many companies are taking away benefits, and people are paying more into their health plans.”

Among the givebacks the company sought at the bargaining table was elimination of defined-benefit pensions for new hires.

“We’re in an environment hostile to unions,” said UFT Vice President for Non-DOE Members Anne Goldman, who led the negotiations. “But we achieved our goals for the members. They didn’t touch the pensions, and when they tried to pit senior members against junior members, we rejected divisiveness.”

VNSNY Chapter Leader Raquel Webb Geddes said the union’s negotiating team accomplished its mission. “Our core issues were to secure pension and health benefits and obtain a decent raise,” she said.

The new contract stipulates that at least 10 days prior to a layoff, VNSNY must notify the union of its intention to retain any per-diem employees. In addition, the contract creates a new flexible paid time-off bank that allows members to apply unused sick days toward personal days or vacation time.

VNSNY is the oldest and largest not-for-profit home health care agency in the United States.

Goldman said the nurses sought to protect the patients they serve. The contract, for instance, contains new language for caseload care management that protects individualized care. “These negotiations were part of a wider effort to destroy the culture of public health,” Goldman said. “We won patient quality controls that keep the focus on the patients. Our patients deserve care that is individualized.”

Jacqueline Cato-Lee, a staff nurse at VNSNY and a member of the negotiating committee, said management was looking to squeeze the workers to get back on solid financial footing.

“Without a union, we wouldn’t have gained any ground with this company,” she said. “How can they recover their losses through us?”

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