Temple University Hospital employees secure new contracts

The contracts include protections for workers in the event of a sale of Temple University Hospital.

Carlos Aviles (left), president of Temple Allied Professionals and Francine Frezghi, president of Temple University Hospital Nurses Association, along with other nurses, stand on the intersection of Broad and Ontario streets on Oct. 14. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After nearly three months of negotiation, the unions representing Temple University Hospital nurses and technicians voted to ratify contracts with Temple Monday night, union leaders said.

The unions, whose former contracts expired on Sept. 30, secured a successorship clause, which states that in the event of a sale of the hospital, the buyer must honor existing contracts.

“The successorship was the heart and soul,” said Carlos Aviles, president of Temple Allied Professionals, the union representing technicians and other hospital professionals. 

The push for the clause comes after a shakeup in healthcare ownership throughout the city. 

Temple Health System announced in July it would sell Fox Chase Cancer Center and its stake in Health Partners Plan, a local nonprofit health insurance organization, to Thomas Jefferson University.

Union leaders identified the September sale of the bankrupt St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in North Philadelphia, where the local unions did not have a successorship clause and lost their existing contracts, as context for the union’s decision to prioritize securing a successorship clause.

A spokesperson at TUH did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Out of nearly 900 members in both unions who voted, only 10 dissented, said Francine Frezghi, president of Temple University Hospital Nurses Association, which represents nurses at TUH.

TUHNA and TAP are both local branches of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, a statewide labor organization formed in 2000. The two unions’ contracts are separate from one another but contain similar language, Aviles said. 

Leadership of the unions refused to negotiate separately in a show of solidarity, he added.

“It’s why we gained our successorship,” Aviles said.

The contracts give TAP representation in an existing TUHNA committee that provides recommendations from workers to the administration about ways to protect their health and safety, Frezghi said. They also created a fund to pay wages to workers on leave for sickness or injury, and a committee to address concerns TAP has about under-staffing.

Contract negotiations began on July 25. Hundreds of TUH nurses and other union workers rallied outside TUH on Oct. 1, WHYY reported. Union leaders planned another picket in front of the hospital had no contract agreement been reached.

Several employees will be moved into different “tiers,” resulting in higher salaries, Frezghi said.

Dana Costanzo, a nurse in the cardiology department, said she wishes the union had negotiated lower patient-to-staff ratios in the contract. 

“I would like them to have put more emphasis on the staffing,” said Nichole Schmidt, who also works in cardiology.

Maryanne Holsworth, a nurse who works in the hospital’s emergency room and served on the unions’ joint bargaining committee, said the union secured a “really good” contract, adding that a lot of hard work went into negotiating it.

“When it could have been done, when there was enough on the table, they were like, ‘No, that’s not enough,’” Holsworth said. 

“Everybody was spoken for, and that was very important,” she added.

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