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UFT outraged by VNS layoffs

New York Teacher

The Visiting Nurse Service of New York on April 8 abruptly laid off approximately 775 employees, including about 400 members of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, as part of a company restructuring, prompting an outcry from the union and the community.

“This is tragic, and it is outrageous,” said Anne Goldman, the UFT vice president for non-DOE members and the head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, at a special meeting for those affected by the layoffs on April 10 at UFT headquarters.

“We believe too much is at stake for management to rush to eliminate jobs and to restructure without critical analysis,” she told members in an email. “The next steps should be collaboration with our union to make the wisest and most efficient decisions — not quick decisions that may be incorrect.”

In addition to the layoffs — which included nurses and administrators, many with decades of experience — some 157 employees received warning letters stating that their jobs will be terminated in two months.

Goldman said UFT President Michael Mulgrew immediately reached out to officials at the Visiting Nurse Service of NY to express his anger and disappointment. That conversation triggered a round of discussions that resulted in the union extracting an agreement from the company to set aside about 110 managerial jobs — all union — for members with seniority who received the warning letters. The jobs will be at their current salaries and without a probationary period, she said.

Betty Hilleman, one of the nurses who was laid off, said she used to be proud to work at the company where she has spent 20 years — and to which she recently returned after two years away. “I spent my 40s raising a child with special needs, and I was in debt,” she said. “I got out of debt, but I need a pension.”

Jainifer Morrison, another who lost her job, said her caseload had grown to 56 clients, the result of earlier layoffs that increased the workload for those who remained. The latest round couldn’t come at a worse time, she said. “I have an 18-month-old son, and my husband was laid off at JFK Airport,” she said.

Her cousin, Manjula David, a nurse consultant, attended the meeting although her job is safe — for now — to give support to Morrison. “I don’t feel secure,” David said. “We don’t know what the future looks like.”

The company had previously given pink slips to 500 nurses in December after a state investigation found that it had recruited able-bodied senior citizens for a Medicaid-funded program intended for the frail elderly. As a result, the Visiting Nurse Service was forced to repay $33.6 million to Medicaid.

The union represents about 2,200 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses at the company.

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