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Tentative settlement for nurses at Rochester General Hospital; strike averted

There will not be a strike by nurses at Rochester General Hospital next week. 

That’s after a tentative agreement was reached between the hospital and the recently formed Rochester Union of Nurses and Allied Professionals (RUNAP). 

Word of the settlement came down late Wednesday night, as both the union and the hospital have held ongoing bargaining talks, even as the union announced just over a week ago its members were planning on a five-day strike starting on Monday, October 23, if an agreement could not be reached. 

A joint statement released from RGH and RUNAP on Wed. night, said that they have reached a tentative agreement on a 42-month contract for the more than 900 nurses represented by the union. 

This is the first contract for the union that was formed last year, and comes after more than two dozen bargaining sessions over the last 12 months. 

“We want to thank the RGH and RUNAP bargaining teams, our RGH employees for the exceptional care and dedication they give our patients, and the Rochester community for their patience and understanding” said Tammy Snyder, President and Chief Operating Officer at Rochester General Hospital. “Two key issues for both sides were wages and staffing, and I’m pleased we were able to find common ground with the union on these and many other important issues.” 

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Union President Carmen Camelio said that, “We are proud of our RGH nurses who have stood united over the last fifteen months in their commitment to achieve advancements for patient care at our hospital. Tonight, we have reached a tentative agreement that addresses many of the concerns of our nurses. We are looking forward to working together with hospital management to provide the quality care that our community deserves.” 

Jennifer Eslinger, the President of Health Care Operations and Chief Operating Officer,
said this agreement raises wages an average of 22% over the life of the contract.

She also said the pact does more to empower a nursing committee to make sure staffing is distributed in a more effective way.

“Do you need two to one nurse ratios? Do you need three to one? And it's a continuous process, right? It's never one and done," said Eslinger. "The patient population, the demographic constantly changing. So we have to make sure that our nurses have a voice and have a say in how much staff they need.”

The RUNAP Secretary, Gillian Kingsley, said this agreement will be enough, at least for now.

“Everyone wants to walk in getting everything that they want, right? But that's not how negotiations work, and you have to find areas where you can give and take, and ultimately everyone has a standard of where they're not willing to compromise. Luckily for us, we were able to find that area of compromise,” said Kingsley.

RUNAP leadership said it will now share the full tentative agreement with the nurses they represent and will encourage ratification of the agreement. It will be voted on next Wednesday.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.