After two years of difficult contract negotiations, New York State Nurses Association, and healthcare professionals at CVPH voted this week to authorize a strike, if one becomes necessary. Over 90 percent of nurses and healthcare professionals voted yes to authorize a strike, saying their employer needs to recruit and retain more staff.

Outside CVPH Thursday, the New York State Nurses Association says it will strike only as a last resort if the University of Vermont Health Network, CVPH’s parent company, refuses to use it’s $1.1 billion in cash reserves to directly improve patient care.

“The members are very anxious and ready to do this, it’s time for CVPH to start bargaining with our membership and the bargaining needs to be in good faith,” said Bobbi-Jo Otis, who works in the medical surgical unit. Otis co-chairs the NYSNA Executive Committee at CVPH and says they experience unsafe staffing levels.

“The fact that we no longer have unit clerks so nobody is answering the phones, we don’t have enough people to answer the call bells when our patients need us at the bedside to help them,” said Otis. She says if they do have to strike, it will only affect the community more. “It’s going to slow down a lot of surgeries, same day surgeries up at the plaza.”

For over 20 years, Chris Swiesz has worked as a RN in the emergency room at CVPH but now he has to take on even more tasks. “And it is not just having to take on your nursing duties sometimes we don’t have enough janitorial staff so you get into cleaning answering the phones running meals doing different things having to transport your patients back and forth,” said Swiesz.

“A strike is not something we want to do, when nurses are outside of the building there is something wrong inside the building,” said Liz Craigmyle, a RN who has worked at the hospital for over 20 years.

In a written statement, the CVPH President Michelle LeBeau wrote, “We are still hopeful that we can come to an agreement with the NYSNA bargaining team and prefer to negotiate at the bargaining table.

“Enough is enough, come to the table, seriously bargain with us to do what is right for our peers,” said Otis.

At this time there is no actual strike, just an authorization vote. Union members say they will only strike as a last resort.