Nurses union alleges retaliation, sues Heritage Valley
April 09-- Apr. 9--A union representing registered nurses at Heritage Valley Health System has filed suit in federal court, alleging the company retaliated against the nurses after the union filed a grievance against Heritage Valley.
In addition, the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania is alleging that Heritage Valley is steadfastly refusing to arbitrate the union's new grievances, in violation of a collective-bargaining agreement between the two entities.
The process began in October when an arbitrator ruled that Heritage Valley violated the agreement by sending home nurses who were "receiving premium-time pay while retaining nonunion bargaining nurses (agency nurses) to continue working when the hospital found it had a need for reduced staff," according to court documents.
That qualified as a violation, according to court paperwork, because Heritage Valley in the collective-bargaining agreement agreed not to provide "regular, ongoing staffing ... through the use of agency personnel, temporary or contract, or floating/pulling of employees."
"Within days after that decision," the union alleged, Heritage Valley retaliated by requiring registered nurses "leave their usual unit to go to another unit" and work as patient-care assistants. During that time, the registered nurses were required to care for a number of patients in excess of contractually agreed upon nurse-to-patient ratios in the CBA.
In addition, the union alleged that the registered nurses should never have been forced to work as personal-care assistants, which "are not nurses -- of any licensure -- and their job responsibilities are significantly less skilled" than registered nurses.
On Oct. 28, the union filed a class-action grievance asserting that Heritage Valley breached the CBA "by requiring registered nurses to work in the capacity of personal-care assistants, and not honoring the CBA-mandated (nurse-to-patient) ratios, and retaliating against the union for having prevailed in the first grievance."
Further issues arose, according to court documents, when Heritage Valley allegedly refused to process that class-action grievance. That's when the union filed suit in Pittsburgh alleging the company is in violation of the Labor Management Relations Act.
In that suit, the union is asking a judge to force Heritage Valley to cooperate with the union while also awarding the union attorney's fees and "all expenses and costs incurred in bring this action."
A spokeswoman for both Heritage Valley and the nurses union did not return a request for comment.