Second Strike This Year Could Be Days Away At ARH Hospitals

A second strike this year at ARH hospitals could just be days away.

Officials with the Kentucky and West Virginia Nurse's Association say ARH's negotiator told them to expect their best and final offer Wednesday.

Union officials say the morale of the nurses is low and ARH's approach to negotiations has been unreasonable.

Both sides say they still hope to avoid a strike.

The current contract ends this Sunday at midnight.

ARH officials say they are making plans to continue providing quality care if there's a walk-out.

Below are both sides full statements.

KNA/WVNA Press Release:

The Kentucky Nurses Association and the West Virginia Nurses Association were notified by Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc. of their intent to reopen the contract in June. The proposals were placed on ARH’s Intranet before negotiations began. Negotiations began on August 27th and after each session propaganda was generated by ARH resulting in “bulletin board bargaining.”

The KNA/WVNA didn’t open the contract and never wanted to open the contract until after ARH exhausted all their appeals related to their unilateral discontinuance of the Modified Work Week provision (36 hours of work for 40 hours of pay). However, ARH opened and has offered proposals that will cost the RN’s more money than the 2% salary increase proposed.

ARH has gone public and stated that it will be business as usual – think about it! If the company is less 700+ RN’s – what kind of patient care can you expect?

Our priorities are based on the surveys our members returned: (1) Staffing, (2) Mandatory Overtime, (3) Retirement/Medical benefits, (4) 36/40 Issues. We will also preserve the union’s successor language and the seniority rights of our members.

ARH’s negotiator announced on Monday, Sept. 24th at 3:45pm that they would present their best and final offer on Wednesday, the 26th of September. This unusual move is consistent with the entire, unorthodox, unreasonable approach to negotiations. Usually the Association would ask for the company’s best and final proposal. The continued effort to control these negotiation with the help of Yessin, a recognized union busting organization from Tampa, FL, who has had mandatory meeting, handbills, harassment of nurses and disruption of patient care has added to the delay, discontent and low morale of the nurses.

KNA/WVNA does not want to strike and will only do so if we are unable to get a contract that guarantees a safe working environment for the nurses and the patients we care for. It is our hope that ARH will agree to a contract that insures safe, quality patient care provided by adequate staffing that respects and recognizes the loyalty of the Registered Nurses, protects our families, neighbors and the whole community. ARH wants to do what they want, when they want, to whom they want despite the contract, the rights of RN’s and the needs of patients.


Update: Labor Negotiations Continue

September 24, 2007 --- Labor contract negotiations are continuing between Appalachian Regional Healthcare and the Kentucky and West Virginia Nurses Association Union. ARH confirmed it has received a notice of intent to strike from union representatives. Contract negotiations began in late August and the existing contract expires September 30.

ARH is a leading employer in the region and officials say the wages and benefits package offered to the KNA/WVNA reflects the healthcare system's competitiveness with the market for healthcare salary and benefits.

"We are offering our nurses salary increases, free health care at our facilities, generous paid time off, retirement plan contributions and much more. These are some of the best healthcare jobs in this region as well as Kentucky and West Virginia," said Jerry W. Haynes, ARH President & CEO.

Haynes said in the event of a strike, current ARH registered nurses would be allowed to work and ARH is well prepared to continue providing quality care at all of its facilities. Haynes added, "We are hopeful that an agreement can be reached so we can continue working closely with our nurses to provide the excellent care our communities depend on."

Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) is a not-for-profit health system serving 350,000 residents across Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia. Operating nine hospitals, multi-specialty physician practices, home health agencies, HomeCare Stores and retail pharmacies, ARH is the largest provider of care and single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky and the third largest private employer in southern West Virginia.

The ARH system employs 4,400 employees and has a network of more than 400 active and courtesy medical staff members representing various specialties.

Firmly committed to its mission of improving the health and promoting the well-being of all people in Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia, ARH provided more than $96 million in charity and uncompensated care in the past year alone.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by J Location: Kentucky on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:56 AM
    It is sad that people who have no stake in the matter can comment without knowing what they are talking about. Some of you people need to get your facts straight before you spout off. I would bet that if it was your job security, salary, benefits, etc., on the line for the reasons these nurses have, you would sing a different song. And, just so you know, the 36/40 plan was ARH's idea from the beginning, they just now decided to back peddle on it and use that as their propaganda to turn the public against the nurses. It sure isn't the only reason for the strike and again, I say, DON'T COMMENT ON THINGS YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT!! YOU SOUND FOOLISH!!
  • by Ashley Location: Harlan on Sep 26, 2007 at 02:20 PM
    I dont know about any other places but here in Harlan, the nurses are treated awful and completely overworked due to being understaffed. I feel sorry for the nurses around here. It is no wonder so many of them end up going to Pineville or Corbin to work.
  • by Lisa Location: Eastern Kentucky on Sep 26, 2007 at 01:51 PM
    ARH is not the only hospital in these regions. It is only a band-aid station anyway. Instead of complaining about yet ANOTHER STRIKE just go to another hospital. Trust me you will be 10x better off. You will get better care and you may actually walk out ALIVE which is more then I can say for my mother who died during the last strike. It is the patients that are suffering not the nurses and certainly not the administration. Get over yourselves and do what you get paid for...PATIENT CARE.
  • by Brooke on Sep 26, 2007 at 12:27 PM
    It's time for ARH to stop treating their employees as being disposable. They have failed in their attempts to break the unions and will continue to fail as long as the community recognizes the suffering of ARH employees. These employees don't demand better than what they have, they demand that their orginal contracts be honored and that ARH administration stop attempts to break their unions. ARH was formed by UMW members concerned for people in the Appalachian region. Current administration has lost focus and disregard the consequences faced by thousands of Eastern Kentuckians, employees and patients, when they mistreat the labor force. It's time for the public to deman that ARH honor their employees and honor their contracts.
  • by Carl Location: Salyersville on Sep 26, 2007 at 12:23 PM
    Bob, ARH agreed during the last contract to pay for the 4 hours of not working (which by the way is an industry practice for a hospital to do, just check out all the other hospitals), then mid term decided it was a bad idea and stopped doing it. After several judges stated that ARH did not have the right to stop paying them mid-term contract, they continued to argue the point. Yes, I agree it doesnt make sense to get paid for time not worked (lord knows I don't get paid for hours not worked), but if you agree that it is acceptable during the last contract negotiation, and then decide it doesnt make sense, then you cannot change it without re-opening the contract and re-negotiating it. To me it sounds like the hospital is spinning it that the nurses are the bad ones for wanting the 4 hours of pay for no work. Apparently that is a big issue for the nurses. The hospital will leave the public to believe that is the only issue, because most of us dont get paid for time not worked.
  • by Former Patient Location: Hazard on Sep 26, 2007 at 12:07 PM
    Maybe the hospital executives should go on strike, DEMANDING BETTER NURSES. I know from experience you don't want to be in the Hazard ARH hospital. On another occasion, my uncle stayed there two days with open heart surgery complications and the nurses failed to tell any doctors about him until the familiy raised hell about it. It took going to the hospital administrator. Why would a hospital with that many nurses forget about a heart patient with fluid building up around his heart. They apathetically failed to tell any doctors.
  • by Bob Location: Hazard on Sep 26, 2007 at 10:33 AM
    I understand that these nurses are already the best paid in the region, and now some of them want to strike because ARH doesn't want to pay them an extra 4 hours for not working. Go figure.
  • by Carl Location: Salyersville on Sep 26, 2007 at 09:47 AM
    It is my understanding that the hospital is asking for radical changes to the contract, a contract that they agreed was sufficient a couple years ago. Anyone that know anything about negotiations, know that it takes time to make changes, and anytime huge sweeping changes are requested, by either side, normally results in gridlock, and eventually stikes. All it does is hurt the community and the patients. Why should they get caught up in the hospitals agrument. I hear these canned statements that their (ARH) level of service will continue without distruption, and we all know that is damage control at its best. The hospital struggles, the employees struggle, and more importantly, the patients and community suffer. Rome was not built in a day, so why think you can fix all your problems with one contract? Be reasonable people.......
  • by Raymond Location: Richmond on Sep 26, 2007 at 04:36 AM
    Here we go again...
  • by Kyra Location: Jenkins on Sep 26, 2007 at 03:20 AM
    I am so outraged by these strikes. The first strike affected me because I was 2 months pregnant and there were no nurses at the hospital when I began to miscarry. I had to go to another hospital. Now I am almost 9 months and I may be going through it again. I am more worried about my safety, health, and my baby than money and health benefits. I understand it is important but the hospitals should resolve this so that the public isn't suffering anymore.


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