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Ozanam Nursing Home Workers Protest Cut Hours

The union says it has been bargaining for a renewed contract agreement since 2010.

A group of unioned nursing home workers rallied outside of Ozanam Hall on Friday morning to protest a cut in working hours proposed by the administrators.

Those among the Ozanam work force who are organized under UFCW Local 342 say they have gone since 2010 without a new contract, and that the facility is pushing to reduce their work week from 37.5 hours per week to 35 hours per week.

The union says decreasing man-hours, and the administration's refusal to replace staffers who have called in sick has caused patients to suffer long waits to have clothing and linen changed, as well as long periods in between meals. They also say residents have had to wait excessive periods for help to come when called because of staffing issues.

"Even though I am working harder and doing my best to help the residents, the staffing cuts are not allowing me to give the residents the same amount of attention I would like to receive myself if I were in their situation," said Nursing Assistant Cheryl Van Putten.

The non-profit facility, which is run under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Dioces of Brooklyn, has approximately $55 million in reserve accounts, and nearly $29 million in liquid assets, according to a union spokesperson. Neither the administration, nor the Diocese immediately returned calls to confirm those figures, or comment on Friday.

Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, who was originally invited to speak at the rally, said he had a conversation with the administration and the Diocese on Thursday evening, to try and facilitate reconciliation between the two parties. After the call, he was disinvited to participate in the rally altogether.

"After he got the conference call he said he would prefer to be like a mediator at bargaining and help the two sides work out the issues," said UFCW Local 342 spokesperson Kate Meckler, adding, "This press conference is not about bargaining and working out the issues—we know what their issues are, and their issues are hurting the residents...and if he's not here to talk about supporting the residents and resident care then I would kindly ask him to not come."

Avella said he was mystified by the move.

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