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SEIU 1199 local files grievance against E.J. Noble Hospital

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GOUVERNEUR — Service Employees International Union Local 1199 has filed a class-action grievance against E.J. Noble Hospital on behalf of its 58 members who were laid off Monday.

Union Vice President Kathleen M. Tucker said the union also will file a charge against the hospital with the National Labor Relations Board, citing “a complete failure of leadership.”

“This could have been avoided,” she said. “It’s upsetting and frustrating to our members.”

Certified nurse’s aides, licensed practical nurses, radiological technicians and dietary and housekeeping staff members, among some others in smaller ancillary departments, are affected, Ms. Tucker said.

She said some of the departments were told it wasn’t a layoff, rather, “We’ll call you when we need you.”

“We corrected that — it is a layoff,” Ms. Tucker said. Hospital Administrator Charles P. Conole “has decided he’ll do as he pleases. I made phone calls to E.J. Noble to try to speak with Mr. Conole and he didn’t return any of my calls.”

Mr. Conole told the Times on Monday that he blames himself for not recognizing the extent of the hospital lab’s deficiencies before the state Department of Health intervened in August. He said on Tuesday that his main goal is to get people back to work as soon as possible.

“The state doesn’t want us to close,” he said. “To say this is a layoff may be a strong term. Hopefully, in the next week to 10 days, we can get everyone back to work here.”

He announced on Sunday that as many as 70 hospital employees could be laid off after the state ordered the hospital’s lab closed Friday, which essentially shut down E.J. Noble’s ability to offer emergency or acute-care services. The state cited multiple lab deficiencies since August, some of which presented safety concerns.

Meanwhile, the New York State Nurses Association hasn’t moved as rapidly toward grievances and complaints as the SEIU local has. Association spokesman Mark A. Genovese said the state nurses union, which represents registered nurses at the hospital, has been communicating with hospital administration about the situation.

“We’ve been meeting with the CEO and management team as to why the lab was shut down and how it’ll affect pay and benefits and how we can help rectify the situation,” Mr. Genovese said. “That’s all the action we’ve taken now. We’re figuring out the magnitude and details.”

The union represents a total of 31 registered nurses at the hospital, but Mr. Genovese said he was unsure Tuesday exactly how many would be affected.

Both he and Ms. Tucker said they informed their union members about unemployment benefits.

Ms. Tucker said the whole situation is a tragedy.

“Right now we’re working on a community ‘save our hospital’ campaign,” she said. “This is hitting our members hard. The hospital said, ‘We’d hope to be up and running in 30 days.’ That’s a long time for people who depend on a paycheck.”

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