By Nathan Mayberg
HARRIS July 9, 2004 Health care workers at Catskill Regional Medical Center evidently will not accept 68 recent layoffs without a fight.
Hospital workers from Union 1199 Service Employees International voted unanimously last Friday to hold a picket outside the hospital.
Those who were not laid off will picket during their off-hours, beginning next week. (Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the hospital must be notified ten days ahead of any picket.)
Union 1199 represents 330 health care workers at the hospital in Harris, according to its representative, Rosa Lomuscio.
On Friday, Lomuscio was taking turns rushing up to the hospital to meet with hospital officials as well as run the informational picket.
Lomuscio charged that the hospital was violating the collective bargaining agreement by meeting with workers and firing them,without their union representative present. Furthermore, she alleged that the layoffs were in breach of contract. Lomuscio contended that any layoffs must be made according to workers experience.
But Debbie Davis, who served as an X-ray transporter for 27 years, was told she was reengineered. In other words, Davis was offered part-time work in food service or housekeeping.
Which I dont mind, she said. Its a job.
Lomuscio said that such a job would typically be for two days a week, around 12 hours total.
Some of the hospitals staff lost jobs that went back as far as 1968, said Lomuscio. She was furious that the hospital was not giving many of its workers what she felt is proper notification of the layoffs. She said her union itself was not notified until the layoffs had already begun.
The union is demanding the hospital present them a copy of its budget.
Show us what the economic reason is, pleaded Lomuscio.
She has asked the hospital to present its books, but so far she said the hospital has refused.
They told us its not ready yet. Theyve been telling us that for over a month, she said.
For 12 hours on Thursday, union representatives met with hospital officials to no avail, lamented Lomuscio.
Nothing we said could get them to have a discussion [on the layoffs].
One worker, Rafael Colon, took issue with a claim by the hospital that workers from the Sullivan County Center for Workforce Development Team or any other counselors were on hand to help assist laid-off workers with the stress.
I havent seen anybody, he claimed.
CRMC CEO Art Brien could not be reached for comment.
Susan Nichols, a nurses aide who voted for the picket, had conflicting emotions.
Its not good at all, she said of the staff cuts. But she was hopeful theyll do something about it and nobody will get laid off.
John Rusinko, a union delegate who works in maintenance, called the cuts terrible, fearing patient discomfort with new faces treating them.
Plus . . . you have the summer season coming up, he stated.