UPDATE: PBMC, LIJ Valley Stream and Northwell reach tentative agreements to avert strike

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Feb. 19.

After issuing a federally-mandated strike notice on Feb. 9, nurses and healthcare workers at Peconic Bay Medical Center and Northwell Health reached a tentative agreement on Friday, Feb. 16 after bargaining sessions — potentially averting 400 employees from striking.

Union members at PBMC previously identified pay parity and safe staffing as two key items they wanted to see on the agenda for negotiations.

According to a news release sent by the New York State Nurses Association, Northwell negotiators agreed to substantial wage increases and improvements to safe staffing standards at PBMC.

After bargaining through the night, NYSNA announced that a tentative agreement was reached between Northwell negotiators and union members of LIJ Valley Stream on Sunday, Feb. 18.

Fair wage increases and safe staffing standards were previously rejected at Valley Stream because the hospital workers and community were “characteristically different,” NYSNA representatives said.

“Nurses put our lives on the line because we care about our patients — that’s why I became a nurses, and that’s why we were reader to do whatever it takes to achieve safe staffing and fair wages to retain nurses and provide excellent care for our Valley Stream community,” said Sandra Armstrong, a veteran nurse leader at LIJ Valley Stream. “I’m proud of our nurses for remaining united and ready to fight until Northwell agreed to a fair contract.”

The tentative agreement for LIJ Valley Stream healthcare workers includes improvements to safe staffing measures, as well as stronger and expedited safe staffing enforcement. Northwell agreed to add new nurse positions in the Emergency Department holding area, benefits and pension improvements and wage hikes.

NYSNA members at PBMC and LIJ Valley Stream will vote Tuesday, Feb. 20 on whether or not to ratify the contracts.

“Our NYSNA negotiating committee worked hard on this tentative agreement and are proud of the safe staffing improvements and the fact that it will take us from some of the lowest paid healthcare workers on Long Island to being competitive with other hospitals,” said Chris Honor, local bargaining unit president, BMC nurse and NYSNA Southeastern Regional Director. “What will help us hire and retain enough nurses to provide quality care — our number one goal as nurses and healthcare professionals.”

In regards to safe staffing standards, PBMC secured a ratio of 1 nurse to 7 patients in medical-surgical units, NYSNA said.

Depending on job title and years of experience, PBMC healthcare workers agreed on a wage increase from 18% to over 20% over the three year lifespan of the contract, NYSNA said.

The tentative agreement also included stronger and expedited staffing enforcement, as well as a protected NYSNA healthcare and pension plan.

In an emailed statement, Northwell Health stated they were “pleased” to reach the tentative agreement with PBMC.

“From the start of negotiations, our sole focus remained ensuring that our patients continue to receive world-class care and our dedicated nurses and allied health professionals can continue to serve the best environment to provide that care,” Northwell Health said in a statement. “The agreement provides competitive compensations and benefits, and reaffirms our commitment to our team members and delivering safe, high-quality care.”

Over 700 healthcare workers at both PBMC and LIJ Valley Stream had planned to walk out beginning on Wednesday Feb. 21 if an agreement for fairer contracts was not reached with Northwell.

In response to Northwell “threatening” to lock union nurses out if they chose to strike, NYSNA said they are filing unfair labor practice charges.

“We are 100% in solidarity with our union siblings at LIJ Valley Stream, who deserve respect and a fair contract, too,” Mr. Honor said, prior to the tentative agreement being reached for LIJ Valley Stream. “Northwell should invest in quality care in every hospital and every community they serve.”