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Kenmore Mercy nurses with no contract hold picket

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Buffalo: Kenmore Mercy nurses with no contract hold picket
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Nurses at Kenmore Mercy Hospital have been working without a contract since their latest one expired February 1. They've have already voted down one contract, and are set to go back to the bargaining table soon. YNN's Katie Morse was at their informational picket, and tells us why they say the hospital needs to work with them to come to an agreement.

KENMORE, N.Y. — Since early February, nurses at Kenmore Mercy Hospital have been working without a contract. They spent Tuesday afternoon getting their message out to the community - and the hospital administration.

"The nurses at this hospital provide an excellent service to the community, and we would like to have enough staff and enough incentives to keep that excellent staff ratio that we need to provide excellent care," said Deborah Arnet, Kenmore Mercy Registered Nurse.

A vote on a new contract February 11 failed, with 94 percent of the nurses who voted rejecting the deal. The nurses say they're upset over losing daily overtime, a choice in their health insurance, and pay scale changes.

Chuck Hayes, a spokesperson for the hospital, said of the proposed contract, “It's provisions reflect the changes we are seeing in our hospitals as a result of health reform and the escalating financial pressures being placed all healthcare providers from the state and federal government to operate more efficiently.”

But the nurses aren't convinced.

"They've removed any incentive to stay and pick up extra time, they've removed daily overtime from the contract, and, in addition to that, they've taken away a progressive wage scale from anybody whose been here shorter than 16 years," said Arnet.

The union says a group that would really feel the impact of these cuts is the younger nurses. They say that's a group you want to keep happy, especially if you want the same level of healthcare.

"Our job is to make sure the younger, newer people get their fair share. They'll never make the money that we make, and to keep them in the profession, and keep them here, we need to move them along in the pay," said Vanessa Quinn, Kenmore Mercy Registered Nurse.

"If the hospital is smart, they would make sure they stay in there."

Kenmore Mercy maintains the contract voted down earlier this month was: "....essentially the same contract that was accepted by our registered nurses at Mercy Hospital and Sisters Hospital St. Joseph Campus."

Both sides will be back at the bargaining table Wednesday hoping to come to an agreement and avoid a strike.

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