Amid pandemic, striking East Liverpool City Hospital nurses say they want to be treated fairly

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The union says they offered to pull the strike notice if they were given the two-week extension on their contract, but the hospital said no

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – Nurses at the East Liverpool City Hospital officially went on strike Saturday morning.

Nearly 130 nurses lined up outside the East Liverpool City Hospital Saturday morning, voicing their frustrations over contract negotiations.

Their current contract expired Friday at midnight.

The union says they have extended that contract twice already because of the pandemic. They want to extend it another two weeks to hash out details and come to a compromise but say the hospital is refusing to come back to the negotiating table.

“They have portrayed us as frontline heroes, but whenever it comes time to show the respect for the heroes that are taking care of their patients, they refuse to engage in bargaining that’ll come to something,” said Ashlee Severs, a nurse at the hospital.

The union says they offered to pull the strike notice if they were given the two-week extension, but the hospital said no.

“We have offered to meet with them multiple times. It has yet to be met,” Severs said.

They’ve even filed unfair labor practices charges against the hospital.

“It’s demoralizing. One day, they’re called heroes, and then when they’re at the negotiating table, they’re treated differently. They don’t feel like they’re respected by their employer,” said Bob Cousins, executive deputy officer at the Ohio Nurses Association.

The nurses say one of their biggest issues is staffing. They want a contract that will address that.

Right now, they have 128 nurses in their bargaining group and are trying to fill more than 20 positions.

“Because of not currently having competitive wages, we’re finding it extremely difficult to recruit and retain staff, and that’s why we came to this problem to begin with,” Severs said.

Hospital representatives dispute that the offer wasn’t competitive and fair, posting details on the hospital’s Facebook page on Thursday.

The strike is expected to last three days.

East Liverpool City Hospital CEO Keith Richardson says he hopes the hospital and union can come to an agreement.

“We hope that we can sit down with them soon so we can finish negotiations. But until then, once they walked out of the negotiations and told us that they planned to continue a strike, all of our attention has gone into making preparations to make sure we have the resources in place to make sure that our patients are taken care of,” he said.

The nurses say they’re hoping to be back to work Tuesday morning.

Once they return, the nurses won’t be under contract. They’ll work under their current rate of pay and benefits.

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