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North Ottawa Community Hospital Nurses Ask Federal Officials to Intervene Again

Press Release, 5/2/12

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Management refuses to work with nurses on staffing, other issues

GRAND HAVEN – Nurses at North Ottawa Community Hospital said today they have been forced again to ask federal officials to intervene, this time because hospital leaders refuse to communicate with them and compromise at the bargaining table. This is the fourth time the nurses have had to file an unfair labor practice charge in about a year, an extremely unusual number for a Michigan hospital.

“All that nurses want to do is focus on giving our patients the best care possible and doing our jobs, and we don't understand why the hospital insists on making that difficult for us,” said registered nurse Sherry Thelen. “It’s not right that management won’t even listen to the nurses about our concerns about safe staffing. But we are going to stand up for what’s right even if hospital management doesn’t want to hear it.”

The Michigan Nurses Association, which represents the 94 registered nurses at North Ottawa, filed the unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board this week. The charge states that since December, the employer has failed to bargain in good faith with the union.

“The nurses have asked for written staffing standards to protect patient safety and made other reasonable requests that hospital management refuses to discuss,” said Flo Baerren, Labor Relations Representative. “The nurses have tried for months and they are very frustrated that the hospital won’t do its part to bargain in good faith.”

John Karebian, executive director of MNA, said it is unacceptable for a hospital to treat its nurses so poorly.

“It is appalling that the North Ottawa nurses have to deal with this disrespect and mistreatment when they are simply trying to stand up for their patients and their rights,” Karebian said. “Our nurses are advocates for their patients and the community. Hospital managers are seriously mistaken if they think we will allow them to violate the law and make our nurses go away quietly.”

The other charges that MNA filed on behalf of the North Ottawa nurses are:

·      North Ottawa Community Hospital unilaterally established a new on-call system for nurses in the Family Birthing Unit, refusing to bargain with MNA over the issue. The change could force nurses to work past the point of exhaustion. That charge is still pending.

·      When the hospital did this to the Operating Room Circulating nurses in 2011, MNA filed an unfair labor practice charge.  That charge is still pending with the National Labor Relations Board and a decision from the arbitrator is expected by the end of May.

·      A charge related to failure to provide information, which is also part of failure to bargain in good faith, was filed earlier in 2011 and has been resolved.

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