As part of citywide cuts, 23 grounds crew workers at Jacobi Hospital are losing their jobs.
“We are making difficult decisions that are necessary if we are to remain faithful to our mission,” said HHC president Alvin D. Aviles on May 11 when the restructuring plan was first revealed.
The plan, according to HHC, will reduce the workforce of New York City hospitals and health care by 10 percent but yield an enormous $600 million in savings.
George Cairone, who lives on Morgan Avenue in Pelham Parkway, is one of 23 ground workers, from a group of only 40 total at Jacobi Medical Center, that will lose his job on September 17.
“We’re just numbers to them, they don’t care about us,” said Cairone. “Every day we’re there, busting our butts to get things done, and this is how they reward us? I mean, we have an emergency room on the top of a hill. If it snows, if you don’t have one guy plowing that back and forth constantly, there’s no access at all.”
Cairone mentioned that many of his grounds crew co-workers are Bronxites from Morris Park. He explained that as a general grounds laborer, his tasks run the gamut from plowing snow in winter, to cutting grass and trimming bushes in spring, to fixing leaks all season and carrying sheet rock back and forth.
He added: “I’m also one of the only fire safety people there, I check all the alarms and extinguishers each month.”
Kyle Simmons, president of local 924 New York City laborer’s union, has led a charge to fight for these jobs.“The people being laid off are engineering and maintenance people. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, custodians. All these people maintain the hospital structure. Jacobi for example, hase 64 acres of land, eight buildings. That must be maintained. How will that occur with no one on staff?”
Simmons posited that in his view, saving money should be a second thought, and the city’s first priority ought to be with making sure the patients and community are served. He naturally felt that they’d be best served by keeping the maintenance workers around.
Hannah Nelson, associate executive director at Jacobi Hospital, stressed that, “this is not happening out of context. The cuts are the results of a staffing analysis that showed we should be able to use fewer people.”
Nelson felt for the workers who will lose their jobs, and acknowledged, “Everyone is upset about it, and it’s not something we are taking lightly. But it’s something institutions have to do to keep themselves strong. We’ve done everything we can to value our employees and show them the respect that we have for them.”
A spokesperson for HHC confirmed that on Friday, September 3, “some 300 plus HHC employees received their layoff notifications based on the workforce reduction and cost-containment plan we announced in May. Those positions include trade jobs like maintenance workers, electricians and carpenters. Their official last day will be this Friday, September 17.”
Councilman Jimmy Vacca said he understands the cuts being made, but wishes the city could find another way.“This is a shame. It’s going to affect the neighborhoods surrounding Jacobi,” he predicted.