Nurses reject UPMC Altoona’s offer

Registered nurses at UPMC Altoona voted Monday by a 93 percent majority to reject the hospital’s “last, best and final” offer made Friday – and to strike for 24 hours, beginning at 7 a.m. Feb. 11, according to Paula Stellabotte, president of the SEIU Healthcare PA local.

It will be an unfair-labor-practice strike, based on the unionists’ wish to continue bargaining and a failed attempt to get more information, said Stellabotte late Monday, after officials counted votes cast during the day at a local hotel.

The nurses could not accept the hospital’s position on three major issues – health insurance, retirement benefits and staffing, according to Stellabotte.

The nurses want the hospital to transform staffing guidelines into mandates, to ensure less stress on nurses, better care for patients and better results for the hospital, she has said.

The hospital wants to relax the staffing guidelines and take away nurses’ right to file grievances when they’re not honored, according to Stellabotte.

The unionists will hold a press conference today to explain their decision.

The nurses “will have to figure out where we go” if the one-day strike doesn’t bring the hospital back to bargaining, she said.

In the event of a strike, the hospital will be fully staffed with Pennsylvania licensed registered nurses who embody the high standards patients expect and deserve, hospital Vice President for Human Resources Michelle Speck said last week.

These registered nurses are experienced, highly qualified and specially trained, Speck said.

The hospital will wait until it receives the official results of the vote directly from the union before commenting fully on the union strike vote, a hospital spokesperson who didn’t want to be identified said late Monday.

“However, UPMC Altoona’s primary concern is always to provide high quality health care services to our patients in a comfortable and safe environment,” the spokesperson stated. “We will continue to do that regardless of circumstances.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.