June 2012 Issue
May 23, 2012

Health workers win contract

Author: Matt Smith
Source: NYSUT United

More than 600 unionized health care workers in Erie County have agreed to a new three-year deal, averting a near strike that would have crippled one of the largest non-profits in the Buffalo area.

The pact will raise salaries and increase, by three days, vacation time for members of the United Cerebral Palsy Employees Union Local 3721, a NYSUT affiliate. The ratification vote passed overwhelmingly, with 377 in favor of the contract and 25 against.

The 620-member union had taken a preliminary strike vote in late March, with 95 percent of its membership authorizing officers to send out a strike notice to both the non-profit employer, Aspire, and the Federal Medication & Conciliation Service, as is required for disputes involving health care facilities.

The new deal will raise salaries 2.5 percent in the first year, 1.5 percent plus any "trend” increase in the following year, and offers a "wage re-opener” in year three. Non-economic gains, such as language clarity and ensuring equal rights to overtime pay, were also secured in the new contract.

UCPEU President Tonja Williams praised the action plan put together by NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist Paul Aroune, and the solidarity of the union's members.

"This union body stayed united throughout the entire process,” said Williams. "Our members knew that after a two-year freeze on wages, it was important to get the message across to Aspire that some progress must happen or we would be willing to strike. We had to get to the agency to see that these issues were serious and needed to change."