Hazard, Ky. (WYMT)-- Update: 5-14-14
Nurses at ARH Hospitals now have a three year contract.
A majority of the 734 members of the Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United Labor Union accepted the deal.
During contract discussions, the Union threatened hospital negotiators with a one day strike.
The new labor contract is effective immediately.
Update 4/30/14, 11pm
Dozens of nurses at Appalachian Regional Healthcare who threatened to walk off the job Thursday morning will not strike after all.
Members of the Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United union reached an agreement with ARH Wednesday that prevents the planned one-day strike at ARH hospitals in Hazard and Beckley, West Virginia.
"This is great news for both sides," said Julius Pearson, ARH System Director of Employee and Labor Relations. "Not only for our employees but for our community. This means that the level of care that ARH normally provides will not suffer."
Both sides came to terms on a new, three-year labor contract. Details of the deal were not released.
"I think on both sides it's a great relief to know that we can walk into our jobs (Thursday) and not have to worry about being out on the picket line protesting," said Judy Moore, a SUN/NNU member and nurse involved in negotiations.
Moore expects more than 700 members to vote between Wednesday and Friday next week whether to ratify the new contract.
Update: 4-30-14 six p.m.
Unionized nurses working for the Hazard and Beckley, West Virginia ARH hospitals will go to work as scheduled Thursday morning after negotiations ending Wednesday night avoided a strike.
Nurses still must ratify the new contract proposal. They expect to vote on that proposal next week.
Negotiations continue between Appalachian Regional Healthcare and Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United to avoid a May 1 strike.
"We're ready to negotiate," said Judy Moore, member of the union and ARH nurse. "We've always been ready to negotiate. We still had things on the table to negotiate when ARH called an impasse.
ARH presented its last best and final offer April 15.
Citing increasing healthcare costs, ARH proposed an increase in health insurance premiums and a salary freeze for nurses hired after March, 2011.
"Hospital systems and other entities are on the receiving end of reductions in reimbursements," said Julius Pearson of ARH. "Our reductions have been significant. Year to date we're talking about over eleven million dollars in reductions."
Another sticking point has been the number of years nurses need to work to be exempted from mandatory overtime. ARH proposed 25 years in its latest offer. SUN/NNU is proposing for 17 years.
The limit in the previous contract was 16 years.
"If you work the nursing floor for 16 years, it's not safe for the nurses that have been on the floor so long," said Moore. "I don't think it's safe. I've seen some things over there that makes me question a nurse working 3-12-hour shifts in a row."
The strike is set to last from 7 a.m. on May 1 to 7 a.m. on May 2.
"Are individuals returning after one day? We don't know. that will be dictated by business needs and the law," said Pearson.
Appalachian Regional Healthcare officials and a labor union hope they can reach a contract agreement.
Hospital and Union officials are expected to meet Wednesday in Lexington at 1 p.m.
If they do not come to an agreement by midnight Wednesday, nurses would then go on a 24 hour strike.
The Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United Labor Union issued the notice last week.
Only ARH Hospitals in Hazard and Beckley, West Virginia will be affected.
The clock is ticking away for Appalachian Regional Healthcare and registered nurses to reach a contract agreement.
If union members and hospital officials do not come to an agreement by midnight April 30th nurses would then go on a 24 hour strike.
The Southern United Nurses and National Nurses United Labor Union issued the notice last week.
Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospitals in only Hazard and Beckley, West Virginia will be affected.
We are told no dates have been set to come back to the bargaining table.
Member of the Southern United Nurses/National Nurses United who work at Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospitals in Hazard and Beckley, West Virginia will strike May 1 absent an agreement on a contract, the according to a statement posted on ARH's website Monday.
"Late Friday afternoon, ARH received, via fax, an 'intent to strike' notice from the unions for the Beckley ARH hospital and Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center locations," the statement read in part.
That strike would last one day, according to ARH System Director of Employee and Labor Relations, Julius Pearson.
The two opposing sides held a meeting to come to an agreement Monday, but no agreement came.
"We met with the mediator separately," said Pearson. "She met with the SUN [Southern United Nurses] bargaining team separately, and as a result, it was unfavorable. The union decided not to present any additional offers to us at that point."
Union representatives are waiting for ARH to come to the table with compromises.
"We tried to determine from ARH what areas that they would be willing to have movement in, and they weren't willing to respond," said Dewey Parker, Labor Representative for the union.
issues still to be resolved include vacation/paid time off, health insurance premiums, and compensation for some nurses.
Both sides said a strike would harm the region, and union leaders remained optimistic Wednesday a strike could be avoided.
"We're hoping there's no need for a strike on May 1," said Parker. "We're not at April 30 yet, so there's still hope that we'll sit at the table and the parties will be able to work something out."