Workers OK new contract to end Ozanam Hall strike

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After striking for five days, more than 400 employees of Ozanam Hall Nursing Home in Bayside approved a new contract Friday that included a significant pay increase and ended the labor dispute.

Employees covered by the 442-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 342 walked off the job March 31 after monthlong contract negotiations with the 201st Street nursing home broke down.

After strikers rallied outside the nursing home in the first two days and Ozanam Hall management turned to 200-non union workers to care for its patients, both sides went back to the negotiating table. But what appeared to be a new agreement fell through at about 1 a.m. April 3. Union members spent the rest of the work week picketing outside the front door of the 432-bed nursing home.

A union spokeswoman said Monday the new four-year contract, which includes a 15 percent pay raise, was approved Friday by a unanimous union vote.

A spokeswoman for the nursing home said management was pleased that the strike had ended.

“We’re happy to have our employees back with us,” said Magdalen Smolen, an administrative assistant at the nursing home. “And we’re grateful for everyone who helped out.”

Smolen said in addition to the non-union help the nursing home brought in during the strike, family members and friends of Ozanam’s patients as well as Carmelite nuns — the order of nuns which oversees the home — came to provide support.

Ozanam Hall at 42-41 201st St. is a 432-bed, long-term care nursing home that is known throughout Queens for the quality of care it gives its patients.

Sticking points in the contract talks included the demand that women employees be permitted to wear pants and that staffing and wages at the nursing home be increased. Union members contended understaffing at the home had led to injuries among the workers, a charge the nursing home denied.

Management for the 201st Street facility said it had offered workers a fair wage increase of 11 percent over three years, which the union rejected March 29.

When strikers took up their post on the sidewalk across the street from the nursing home, complaints from residential neighbors forced the 111th Precinct in Bayside to move them, Community Affairs Officer Anthony Lombardi said last week.

Strikers, with the help of City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), moved to a new location near the entrance of the nursing home and farther away from the residential neighbors.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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