Nurses picket Mercy Hospital in Buffalo after talks fail

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — About 2,000 nurses and other employees at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo went on strike Friday after their union and Catholic Health System failed to reach an agreement.

The Buffalo News reports that hundreds of workers represented by Communications Workers of America Local 1133 picketed outside the hospital as the strike began at 6 a.m.

“It’s kind of a sad morning, because we hoped negotiations would result in an agreement, but it did not,” said Debora Hayes, the CWA’s area director.

Hayes said the negotiators made progress during talks that continued until 3:30 a.m., but not enough to avoid a walkout.

Mark Sullivan, the president and CEO of Catholic Health, told the newspaper that the company had made “fair and competitive” proposals to increase wages and staffing.

Sullvan said the proposal included a minimum average wage raise of 3% in the first year, followed by 2% raises in the second and third years and 2.5% in the fourth.

But Hayes said Catholic Health was refusing to commit to adequate staffing levels. “We’ve made it very clear that staffing and bad working conditions are concern No. 1,” she said.

Catholic Health contracted with Michigan-based staffing agency Huffmaster to provide replacement workers in the event of a strike.

Striking nurses chanted “Go home scabs!” at replacement workers Friday morning.

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