Orlando Health employees circulate petition to protest pay cuts



ORLANDO, Fla. - WFTV spoke with one of the nurse behind a push to form a union at one of Orlando's largest employers.

A group of Orlando Health employees plan to present a petition to the hospital's CEO Tuesday, asking to stop changes to shift-differential pay.

More than 5,000 signatures have been added to an online petition opposing pay changes at Orlando Health system.

A nurse in the system said a union is forming to try and stop current and future pay cuts.

They're planning to track down the hospital's CEO, Sherrie Sitarik, Tuesday to announce the formation of the union and to demand that changes they say will dramatically impact their take-home pay be stopped.

With layoffs looming and pay cuts set to take effect in just a matter of weeks, hundreds of employees at Orlando Regional Medical Center are taking matters into their own hands.

"She knows we're coming. I don't think she knows how many of us are coming, but she knows we're coming," NICU nurse Sarah Lasher said.

Lasher is one of two nurses behind the proposed union at Orlando Health.

The petition opposes the shift differential pay cuts which pay employees more as an incentive to work non-traditional shifts.

She says more than 1,000 of those who have signed work at the hospital.

"We need to do this, we have to do this to protect us from any future insult to our pay to our benefits," Lasher said.

The healthcare system announced the changes to differential pay structure at the beginning of August. stating the move would save the hospital $18 million per year and prevent more layoffs.

"Corporate has told us repeatedly, that they know we have a petition but unfortunately they're not rescinding the pay cuts," Lasher said.

The Change.org petition suggests the average employee's loss to be up to $15,000 a year.

Lasher hopes the signatures and unionization will change administrators' minds.

"We understand you've said 'no' but is that truly your final answer to us?" asked Lasher.

Lasher said the pay changes will impact everyone in central Florida, whether they work at the hospital or not.

Orlando Health released a statement Monday.

"Orlando Health has made great strides in quality and patient outcomes and achieved national recognition through our Leapfrog quality scores and Magnet status for nursing care at Arnold Palmer Medical Center. This achievement comes from excellent teamwork among our medical staff, nursing teams and leadership. We do not believe we need a union to achieve this continued success. Unions do not offer value to our goal of achieving optimum patient care, which is a responsibility and passion shared by everyone at Orlando Health," a spokesperson said in an email. "Orlando Health leaders welcome and encourage input and ideas from employees. We responded promptly when a group of employees supporting the union asked for a meeting late last week, meeting with them this morning and accepting the online petition asking for us to reconsider the changes to our shift differential pay. Orlando Health, like many healthcare organizations, has to make some hard decisions to address our financial challenges. One of those is the decision to reduce some special premium pay rates that are now among the highest in the region. This move, along with several other initiatives underway to improve our operations, is critical to our overall financial health, to preserve jobs and to meet our commitments to the communities we serve. Our hospitals, employees and patient care benefit from a close, respectful and direct relationship between our leaders and caregivers. We do not believe unionization promotes that relationship or supports our efforts to provide quality, affordable care to our patients."