In what might have been a flash back to 2009, when union workers were fighting to save some of the benefits threatened by the purchase of Bayonne Medical Center by new owners, about 150 members of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union marched in front of the hospital on May 19.
Chanting slogans as they paraded back and forth along the sidewalk on the Avenue E side of Bayonne Medical Center, union workers said they were conducting a one-day informational protest. They are scheduled to continue negotiations inside the hospital all this week on a contract slated to expire on May 31.
Cars beeped their horns in support of the workers who wore red t-shirts and carried flags in support of their union, Health Professionals and Allied Employees. The t-shirts bore the slogan: “We’re by your side, we’re on your side.”
HPAE, which represents about 800 workers at the BMC, is seeking to retain staffing levels and other issues that they see as critical to maintaining quality of care.
Donna Benjamin, president of the local chapter of the HPAE said staffing levels throughout the hospital are precariously low and said this will have an impact on patient care.
“Access to this hospital is important, and we’re concerned.” – Donna Benjamin
Also on the table are cost of living raises and health insurance coverage and sick time for workers.
“We’re short staff in every level, and we’ve lost a lot of full-time and half-time staff in all departments,” Benjamin said. “We are very concerned about maintaining the quality of the care and the safety of the patients.”
These negotiations come at a time when Holdco, the owners of Bayonne Medical Center, are poised to buy their third hospital in Hudson County. Holdco recently purchased Hoboken University Medical Center, and currently the owners are seeking to bid on Christ Hospital in Jersey City.
“They have also put in a bid on a hospital in Rhode Island,” said Benjamin. “Since Bayonne is the first hospital that they purchased for profit, we want to make sure that the care here is maintained.”
She said one concern is that Bayonne residents do not have easy access to other hospitals because of the traffic conditions getting in and out of the city.
“Access to this hospital is important, and we’re concerned,” she said.
The demonstration, which hospital security closely monitored, was more of a show of force than confrontation, an attempt by the union to show that they can get out their membership if needed.
The unions last marched in front of the hospital during the 2009 contract negotiations just after Holdco took over ownership of Bayonne Medical Center. In 2009, union members claimed they were locked out of the hospital, which prompted a larger and angrier demonstration.
The union eventually voted in favor of a three-year contract that expires on May 31, 2012.
Benjamin, who is part of the negotiations, said that the hospital has met with a delegation from the union more than eight times over the last two months.
“We’re going to be in negotiations all next week,” she said.