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February 2, 2000

Brownsville nurses return to work today

BROWNSVILLE (AP) - With hopes of resuming contract negotiations, nurses at a Fayette County hospital returned to work today, rescinding their notice to strike through today.

The chief executive officer of Brownsville General Hospital, Richard Constantine, approached picketing registered nurses Monday night, offering to reopen talks.

He promised to look at some of our earlier proposals. It sounded like he wants to get together,'' said Brownsville Nurses Association President Ralph Hickle on Tuesday.

The nurses returned to work at 12:01 this morning. The 85-member BNA, an affiliate of Pennsylvania State Education Association Health Care, walked off the job at 12:01 a.m. Saturday after negotiations broke down. The nurses have worked without a contract since May 1.

No formal negotiating session has been scheduled, but Hickle said Constantine's willingness to resume negotiations are a step in the right direction.

Anytime we talk, it's encouraging,'' said Hickle. The stalemate, I never like that. I don't like this discomfort. ... We want the hospital to run normally.''

Constantine could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The union wants the hospital to guarantee it won't subcontract work that the nurses do.

Health care is another point of contention. The hospital has offered to pay the entire cost for a managed health care plan. The union has asked for increases greater than the hospital's offer of 1.5 percent this year and 1.25 percent in 2001 and 2002 if the hospital insists on the managed care plan.

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