SUNY Chancellor approves pay raises for Upstate nurses, making hospital more competitive with St. Joe’s and Crouse

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Nurses at Upstate Hospital will get between $2,000 and $3,500 more per year in a deal negotiated between the university and union and approved by SUNY’s chancellor.

The raises impact 1,648 nurses who are part of the Public Employees Federation, which represents state-paid workers.

SUNY Chanellor Jim Malatras visited the campus in Syracuse on Thursday to announce the approved raises.

To his members, union President Wayne Spence said, “You went into rooms and places where nobody in their right mind wanted to go to. This is recognition that what you did is what people in wartime did.”

Upstate’s spokesperson didn’t immediately have available the number of nurses who left for another job in the past year, but the union president said, in general, nurses are “fleeing.”

“Nurses who are making 40 bucks an hour can go to California and get paid 125 bucks an hour. So why would you stay?,” he asks.

The union president hopes Upstate’s decision puts pressure on other SUNY hospitals like Stony Brook and Downstate.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras admits that because their paychecks are taxpayer-funded, SUNY hospitals have a competitive disadvantage.

“This is the largest employer in the region. It’s the most important employer in the region. It’s a public intuition worth fighting for. We want our employees to stay here and not leave because they have, what they think, are greener pastures in private markets,” said Chancellor Malatras.

The raise doesn’t come in a new labor contract or from hazard pay. Instead, it’s considered “geo pay,” which is setting wages based on competitors in the same market. The nurses’ raises are thought to better compete with salaries paid to nurses at St. Joseph’s Health and Crouse Hospital.

Spence, the union president, said the raise is a result of Upstate President Mantosh Dewan being open to discussion and supportive of the idea.

“He is the first SUNY president whose openly taken my calls with an opportunity for an open ear,” said Spence.

The union president said, “President Dewan showed courage. People might not realize that this was a big lift…. It shows compassion. It shows empathy. It shows, as a boss, he cares about his nurses.”

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