The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed the way we are all living our lives. We hope that you and your families are staying safe and healthy.
When the crisis first began to break out in Washington, your bargaining/officer team determined that we needed to shift our focus from the ongoing contract bargaining to the negotiation of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for Supervisor unit nurses to address workplace safety and job protections. There was urgency to our work because the County was setting up tents and providing COVID recovery and quarantine services. The County was in the process of initiating plans requiring nurses to staff these sites immediately with no directives, policies and procedures in place. The County had not developed policies on admission criteria, medication management, security measures or plans to provide supervision or support staff on site.
Your team reached agreement yesterday with the County on the MOA linked at the bottom of the page. The agreement involves significant compromise from each side. Under the agreement, the County will be able to redeploy nurses, either voluntarily or involuntarily, to COVID care sites. Nurses who indicate they cannot competently perform a designated nursing care role at a COVID Care Site with training and
orientation will not be subject to involuntary redeployment but you may be redeployed to a HMAC/COOP role instead. In recognition of the rapidly evolving staffing needs, the County will be able to make scheduling changes (with as little as 3 days’ notice) in a manner we would not tolerate under normal circumstances. We are obviously not operating under normal circumstances.
In return, we have secured a 25% premium for any nurse who is assigned to work at a COVID care facility. This premium will be retroactive to the time nurses began working in these facilities. The premium will also apply to any Jail Health nurse who is assigned to a unit providing care for COVID patients We heard many of you who are working in COVID testing areas that you are disappointed that this premium does not apply to you. We also understand many, if not all of you are experiencing a significant increase in overtime. We attempted to negotiate this on your behalf until the end but were unable to obtain anything further. We do not believe this aligns with the principle of equity the County often discusses and we are disappointed. If you feel unsafe or unable to perform your job due to fatigue, please review the following information. You may want to consider refusing further hours. https://www.wsna.org/news/2020/nurses-facing-abnormally-dangerous-patient-care-assignments. This link refers to lack of PPE but can also apply to a situation where you are fatigued, inadequately trained or confronted with some other dangerous situation.
The MOA is a good faith effort to come to an agreement, but we expect that problems may arise as the County unveils this massive project in a very short period of time. The MOA requires the parties to meet weekly to problem solve as issues develop. We encourage all nurses to contact your WSNA Nurse Rep, Sara Frey, as problems arise at email@example.com. Your Nurse Rep will be happy to advise you about your rights under the MOA.
In addition to the COVID MOA, your bargaining team has been working on a 1‑year interim contract with the County. We believe that the current crisis will prevent either side from devoting the time and thought that contract negotiations deserve. The County has proposed a 1.5% raise retroactive to January 1 and another 1.5% raise effective July 1. Your team believes that the County’s 2020 wage proposal is fair in light of the current economic circumstances. The 1‑year agreement will enable us to come back to the table in the Fall to continue making progress on all of our priorities.
Finally, we are extremely disappointed that the County appears to have forwarded the MOA to a group of supervisors before the agreement was signed and before WSNA had an opportunity to communicate with its members. The county has shown disgraceful, disrespectful, and underhanded behavior by doing this. We are asking that you contact Megan.Pedersen@kingcounty.gov and let her know that the county has acted in anything but good faith. We demand that the County work in collaboration with WSNA to resolve all concerns.