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In Saranac Lake, nurses call for fair wages, benefits

"Management is trying to make comparisons with unions and hospitals and positions in other areas of the nation," he said. "We're talking about registered nurses here, in the eastern part of the North Country - that's the fair market we're talking about.

Pat Valentine of Lake Placid chairs the bargaining unit for the AMC nurses' union. He says that so far, AMC hasn't offered a proposal that mirrors what the nurses are looking for.

"We're seeing a little positive momentum, but we'd like to see more," Valentine said. "There is an agreement that we are looking for and it will be here eventually."

Currently, the union is asking for three percent across the board raises with step increases, which are based on hours of experience.

But hospital officials counter that the union is asking for what amounts to an average 22 percent wage increase over a three-year period.

Hospital spokesman Joe Riccio says that comparing AMC to other health care organizations in the region is inaccurate.

"I think the union realizes that there are regional economic variances between different facilities, like Alice Hyde, CVPH, and Elizabethtown," he said. "What we do is conduct competitive market research and analysis to make sure that our nurses are fairly compensated in a way that is commensurate with education, training, cost of living, and a variety of other factors."

The most recent contract expired late last year and was renewed through March 22. AMC's latest proposal features a 3 percent salary increase in the first year, while eligible nurses would receive an average 3.2 percent step increase in the second and third years of the contract.

That includes a 2 percent cost-of-living raise.

Riccio says that a new step increase of 3 percent has also been added to the top of the wage scale for nurses who've reached the maximum years of service.

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