Your WSNA Negotiation Team last met with SRH management on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015.
Recently, SRH management sent out a negotiations “update.”
BUT….. Here’s what you REALLY need to know….
WAGES: The wages for RNs at SRH have seriously lagged behind those of nurses working at nearby WSNA Hospitals for some time now. During the last negotiations with WSNA in 2011, Management insisted on slashing the wages of the Clinic nurses. We told Management that a big wage reduction a bad idea and that it would drive quality nurses away from SRH and hinder SRH’s ability to hire good nurses. Management refused to listen, and Clinic nurses began to earn MUCH less than WSNA-represented nurses at nearby facilities. We believed then, and we believe now, that this is a misguided approach to cost-savings.
WSNA has been proposing that SRH increase wages since day one of bargaining to correct the competitive wage disadvantage that Management has insisted upon. Management relented to WSNA’s pressure a bit by increasing wages in December, 2014, as negotiations dragged on. Even with this wage increase, the nursing wages at SRH still lag behind the market. For example, the vast majority of WSNA nurses at United General, currently earn 5%-7% more than acute care nurses at SRH, even with the December wage increase.
WSNA’s latest proposal:
5% wage increase over pre-December, 2014 wages, plus existing step increases (effective retroactively June 1, 2014 – the expiration date of the current contract)
2.75% wage increase, plus existing step increases (effective June 1, 2015)
2.25% wage increase, plus existing step increases (effective June 1, 2016)
Clinic Nurses: would be brought up to the acute care wage scale by June 1, 2015 and receive the same raises as acute care nurses thereafter
Our modest proposal would help to lessen, not eliminate, the competitive wage disadvantage that SRH now faces. Our proposal ensures that nurses get a wage increase effective for the period from when the contract expired on June 1, 2014. Management is proposing no effective across-the-board wage increase for the time since the contract expired in June and when the December “4%” wage increase went into effect. By delaying the wage increase for 6 months, nurses only got the value of a 2% wage increase for that year. When St. Joseph’s Bellingham and United General Hospital recently settled their contracts after their expiration dates, Hospital leadership did the right thing and agreed to retroactive wage increases. SRH Management thinks differently and wants to take financial advantage of prolonged negotiations.
Management is even going one bold step further and proposing to condition some of the nurses’ future wage increases on the Hospital meeting certain goals relating to: whether patients would recommend the Hospital; communication with nurses; responsiveness of hospital staff; and pain management. If the Hospital doesn’t meet these goals, nurses will not get their full potential wage increases. We can only assume that Management believes that SRH nurses have all the tools and staffing support for the Hospital to meet these goals, though one has to question how nursing can be held responsible for the responsiveness of other staff. Meanwhile, nurses tell us about staffing problems at SRH; and Management refuses agree to substantive, meaningful approaches to staffing problems. Management fails to recognize that nurses are professionally driven and, that given the proper tools and support, provide exemplary care. Area WSNA hospitals understand this and do not hold its nurses’ compensation hostage as part of a misguided pay practice. They guarantee full wage increases for the life of their contracts all the while facing similar Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement constraints as SRH. We fear that Management’s dangerous new approach to compensation will give SRH nurses yet another reason to look elsewhere for employment where they can earn a better wage and count on guaranteed wage increases that are higher than what Management is proposing.
PER DIEM PREMIUM AND PREMIUM IN LIEU OF BENEFITS: Management continues to propose to cut the Per Diem premium and the premium in lieu of benefits. Currently, the premiums are 15%. Management is proposing to cut the premiums to 12%. All of the WSNA area hospitals pay their per diems a 15% premium. Moreover, Management made a completely new demand concerning per diem nurses on the 17th day of negotiations. To receive an entirely new demand so late in negotiations and during mediation is unusual and causes us to question Management’s good faith commitment to reaching an agreement. Management is now demanding that per diems not have the same flexibility they currently have regarding which days they are available to work. While we understand that individual nurses may have different points of view as to whether a per diem position is preferable to a FTE position with benefits, a couple of things are certain. Management’s proposal to slash per diem wages to below-market rates and to require per diem nurses to be available to work days that Management identifies will make per diem positions much less attractive to current and prospective nurses who will look elsewhere for higher pay and more flexibility. The result is that SRH risks losing a valuable resource and compounding its staffing problems. Moreover, we believe that Management’s proposal will make it cheaper for them to rely on per diem nurses rather FTE nurses with benefits and will encourage more skeletal staffing practices.
Layoff, Restructure and Work Days. During the course of negotiations, Management also proposed that a 6-hour shift be considered a “normal” shift and that Management be allowed to change the start and end time of a nurse’s shift without the nurse’s consent. Management also proposed drastic changes to the layoff procedure which limit nurses’ options in the event of a layoff. We have fought off Management’s proposals regarding 6-hour shifts and changing start and end times, but Management is still proposing to reduce nurses’ options during a layoff. Moreover, Management has recently demanded that it be able to offer any nurse that it chooses to work an 8-hour, 10-hour or 12-hour shift without posting the position and letting other nurses have a chance to apply for the position. We think that this is unfair to all nurses.
RETIREMENT AND HEALTH INSURANCE: Despite what you may infer from Management’s last update, Management is STILL proposing that it be permitted to try to reduce your retirement match during the life of the agreement, if it so desires. Management has rejected our proposal to preserve health and retirement benefits.
STAFFING: We can only assume that, rather than meaningfully engaging WSNA on substantive staffing and resource solutions, Management believes that the solution to improving CMS benchmark scores is to have nurses work harder so that they can realize the full value of a potential wage increase without a corresponding commitment by Management to ensure that nurses have the proper staffing and resources to provide excellent care. We believe there is a better approach and have proposed staffing language so that the level of care can be improved.
Here is WSNA’s latest proposal on staffing:
“Staffing. The parties agree to cooperate in an effort to insure an appropriate relationship between patient care needs and staffing levels. Quality of care and the safety of all patients and of all nurses are of paramount concern to the Hospital. Standards established by the accrediting body shall be considered relevant criteria for determining appropriate staffing levels. Each unit in the Hospital’s facilities shall maintain staffing levels that ensure safe patient care and the health and safety of nurses, including staffing that enables nurses to take meal and rest breaks. To that end, the Employer shall maintain, at a minimum, the [current] staffing levels set forth in Appendix X.”
Management’s response to this common-sense proposal is “NO.”
How does Management expect nurses to help them meet their goals when they refuse to agree to staff so that nurses provide safe patient care and receive meal and rest breaks? They can’t even bring themselves to commit to, at a minimum, the current staffing levels. So the next time you are working short-staffed, ask yourself what Management is doing for you to help them meet goals relating to nurses’ communication with patients and their families, pain management and responsiveness of hospital staff. After all, under Management’s proposal, your paycheck will depend on it.
MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT, Management is proposing sweeping, fundamental and disturbing changes to your contract that we believe will be bad for nursing and bad for patients. Now more than ever, it is important that all nurses be informed about these issues and to join us in our defense of nursing at SRH.
Your Fellow Nurses on your WSNA Bargaining Team