UPMC Altoona announces new three-year pact with nurses

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UPMC has announced a new three-year contract between its Altoona hospital and the 800 nurses who work there. 

"We are pleased that our nurses have overwhelmingly ratified" the contract, the Pittsburgh health system said in a statement issued Saturday afternoon. "We believe that the contract with SEIU Healthcare PA is fair to our nurses and financially prudent for the hospital and our community."

The release did not include financial details, other than to say that "the elements of the contract are consistent with what UPMC has done or is doing at its other hospitals," and that "the nurses accepted pension and health care benefits consistent with the UPMC programs."

In its own release SEIU Healthcare -- the union that represents the nurses, and the same union that is trying to organize some UPMC workers in Pittsburgh -- said that "a major sticking point in negotiations was staffing, [and] the new contract maintains staffing language to ensure nurses are not assigned too many patients."

"From the beginning we have made it clear this is about our patients and protecting high quality care,” Paula Stellabotte, a registered nurse in the UPMC Altoona intensive care unit, said in the SEIU statement. "We are really proud to have advocated so long and so hard for this community and now we have a contract that reflects those values.”

Contract negotiations began in October, and on Feb. 11 nurses held a one-day unfair labor practice strike. 

Nurses returned to UPMC Altoona on on Feb. 12, but not all were immediately welcomed back. Hospital spokesman David Cuzzolina said 31 nurses were allowed to return while the others were told to wait for a call from their supervisor. The day of the strike, UPMC Altoona used Pennsylvania-licensed temporary nurses to cover for the striking nurses, a move that was slammed by SEIU Healthcare PA. 

In the end, 97 percent of the nurses voted in favor of ratifying the new pact, the SEIU said.  

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