Scranton Geisinger employees set to strike in early May

Apr. 19—Nearly 1,000 health care workers at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton are set to strike after months of contract negotiations.

The Geisinger employees make up three separate bargaining units, 98 percent of whom authorized a five-day strike beginning on May 9 if contract agreements are not reached.

Their concerns include critical quality-of-care issues and caregiver retention, according to a press release.

On Jan. 1, Geisinger zeroed out extended paid time off which is used as sick time for all employees without a bargaining unit contract. Two of the three units at the medical center are negotiating their first contract, according to the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals.

In addition, the company has proposed eliminating all sick time for registered nurses and nurse anesthetists, some of whom have hundreds of hours in the bank after years of service at the hospital, the association said.

"A health care system that strips sick time benefits from employees isn't primarily concerned about 'care' or about 'health,' because by doing so, it's putting the community, all of our patients, and our staff at risk," said perioperative care nurse Kali Gargone.

Gagone is membership chair of the Northeast Pennsylvania Nurses Association at the center and a member of the state association's executive board.

With sick time eliminated, health care workers are forced to use vacation time when they are sick, injured or on medical leave, including maternity leave, the press release said.

"We were once considered family here at CMC," said registered radiologic technologist Pam Guido, a 22-year veteran of the hospital. "Everyone respected each other. And that's how we treat our community — like family, with respect. Unfortunately, we don't receive the same respect from our administration.

"They have now taken away our sick time, which means we're unable to care for ourselves and, by extension, our patients."

The health system has also proposed no limit on increased health insurance costs for employees. Costs are uniquely controlled by the company which owns their own health insurance plan, the association said.

Geisinger said they will continue bargaining efforts to reach an agreeable contract.

"Our PASNAP-represented colleagues play a critical role in the delivery of care at Geisinger Community Medical Center," the hospital said. "We value their commitment to our community, respect their rights as union members, and we're committed to continued good-faith bargaining to reach a mutually agreeable labor contract."