New York nurses end strike after reaching deals on hospital staffing

Over 7,000 nurses in New York City ended a three-day strike and returned to work on Thursday after reaching tentative deals with hospitals over staffing levels and pay increases.

More than 7,000 nurses in New York City ended a three-day strike and returned to work on Thursday after reaching tentative deals with hospitals over staffing levels and pay increases, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said.

Nurses at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan had taken to picket lines on Monday saying they were more concerned with patient safety than higher wages.

As news of the deals spread in the early hours of Thursday morning, including a guarantee of better ratios of staff to patients and compound pay increases of 19.2% over three years, nurses in scrubs cheered and embraced each other outside the hospital buildings.

NYSNA President Nancy Hagans said in a statement that the new contracts would ensure "there will always be enough nurses at the bedside to provide safe patient care, not just on paper."

She said hospitals had struggled to retain nurses because of working conditions, which became particularly grueling after the COVID-19 pandemic reached New York in early 2020.

At Montefiore, management agreed that a nurse in the emergency department would care for no more than two patients at a time, and no more than five patients at a time in acute care, Hagans said. If staffing drops below those ratios, the hospital will pay financial penalties to nurses.

Montefiore also agreed to nurse-student partnerships to recruit local Bronx nurses to stay as union nurses at the hospital for the long run, the association said.

Management at both hospitals, who had said the strike disrupted patient care and strained doctors, residents and non-union nurses who were asked to do longer shifts, released statements saying they were pleased to have reached a deal.

Montefiore said its focus was to ensure nurses "have the best possible working environment." When the strike began Monday, the hospital had been forced to reschedule all elective surgeries and procedures and to postpone appointments.

Mount Sinai said the proposed deal was similar to those between the NYSNA labor union, which represents 72,000 members, and eight other city hospitals, calling it "fair and responsible, and it puts patients first."

New York Governor Kathleen Hochul, whose office assisted the negotiations, praised the deal "to get thousands of nurses back on the job where they want to be" to aid patients.

Hochul said the three-year contract could help the state address the healthcare workforce shortage with better wages and conditions that could draw more workers, adding: "Know you are respected, know you are appreciated."

Union officials and members also praised the settlement, calling it a "historic contract" that recognized nurses' work, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic.

Even as healthcare employment growth has outpaced overall US job growth in the last decade, growing by nearly 16% compared with 13.8%, employment at hospitals - a top source of nursing jobs - has notably lagged, increasing by just 10.2% in that span, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

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