Harlem Hospital Doctors Strike Averted, Union Says
By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — Harlem Hospital doctors will not go on strike, said the president of the doctors' union.
The doctors had threatened to walk off the job because a new contract would raise pension costs and eliminate free tuition for their kids at Columbia University.
"We know HHC is hemorrhaging money," Dr. Barry Liebowitz, president of the Doctors Council of the Service Employees International Union, said of the Health and Hospitals Corporation while outside of Harlem Hospital. "The doctors decided to sacrifice for the community."
The contract has been ratified in principle. Liebowitz said the union will review the written language over the next few days. If it is satisfactory, the contract will come up for a full vote on Wednesday.
The decision came after doctors met for an hour to vote on whether to strike.
Liebowitz said the tuition benefits will be phased out over four years while the pension changes the doctors agreed to will help some doctors and hurt others.
"We appreciate that the union and its membership have recognized the economic realities that challenge HHC and the city and have accepted a fair and comparable package that includes a modest salary increase that will be funded by a somewhat diminished pension contribution," said a statement issued by Harlem Hospital.
In an effort to close a $1.3 billion budget gap, HHC announced a massive restructuring in May. The changes included layoffs in addition to combining services, and a restructuring of the affiliations of the 11 hospitals that HHC oversees. Columbia University will end its financial affiliation with Harlem Hospital, as a result.