ELCH Nurses Expect to Return to Work Today

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — Striking nurses at East Liverpool City Hospital expect to return to work at 7 a.m. today, provided they’re not locked out, with hopes that negotiations on a new contract will resume.

Registered nurses governed by Ohio Nurses Association/East Liverpool Nurses Association Local 5903 walked off the job at 7 a.m. Saturday after their contract expired at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

Union members reported Saturday that their contract was extended twice and 11 bargaining sessions were held with hospital administrators in an attempt to negotiate a new pact, to no avail, leading to an unprecedented three-day walk-out due to what the union called unfair labor practices.

The limited-day strike was called so nurses can get back on the job to care for their patients in the midst of the on-going COVID pandemic, according to Ashlee Severs, R.N., a member of the negotiations team and ONA commissioner. 

Severs said Saturday nurses proposed the three-day strike so they can continue to provide “quality care” to the patients while still demonstrating to hospital owner Prime Healthcare Foundation “we mean business” in the union’s quest for a fair contract.

As of Monday afternoon, the union had not heard anything from hospital administrators in regard to future bargaining sessions, according to Severs. “Sadly, they haven’t gotten back to us at all about a time to meet. When we go back in tomorrow, we’ll be working without a contract,” she said.

Severs said nurses now have no contract, meaning no job protection, which she admitted is a concern for them, even though common procedure would be to follow guidelines of the former pact until new terms are negotiated. 

“That’s why we took this measure in the first place: To make sure are members are protected,” Severs said. “But, we want to go back to our patients.”

She said Tuesday will be a “crucial point. We’re hoping they won’t lock us out and we’ll get some negotiating dates on the table.”

The hospital has brought in 60 replacement nurses, according to Severs.

“The strike replacement nurses have said they wouldn’t work under these conditions, and yet they have a third of the patient assignment load we (normally) have,” she noted.
Severs said union members are in good spirits and are receiving considerable community support.

“People are dropping off food and firewood. We’re very appreciative of that support,” she said.

If contract negotiations are not scheduled, or future talks reach an impasse, Severs said a more traditional, lengthy strike is not out of the question and would have to be taken into consideration.

However, she said, “Hopefully, this had enough of an impact to show that we are united and we need competitive wages and that they need to do good faith bargaining.”

Contacted for comment Monday afternoon, hospital officials provided a prepared statement:

“During the strike East Liverpool City Hospital has continued to serve the community with quality patient care. We are grateful to our staff who came to work and to the replacement nurses who are providing excellent care and service to members of our community.
“We look forward to reaching an agreement that benefits our staff and all members of the community and are committed to ensuring the quality of care that has earned (the hospital) continued accolades as “100 Top Hospital” in the nation from IBM Watson Health.”

Pictured at top: Members of Local 5903 of the Ohio Nurses Association/East Liverpool Nurses Association walked off the job Saturday. 

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.