WSNA at CHI during COVID crisis update: Voluntary Furloughs

Overflowing Hospitals
At the onset of the COVID crisis everyone was fearful the pandemic would cause hospitals to overflow with patients, nurses would be working huge amounts of overtime, and there would be a need to float nurses between facilities. WSNA moved swiftly and successfully negotiated an agreement with CHI to protect nurses in those situations as well as nurses that were at high risk due to age or underlying health conditions as is reflected in our first CHI COVID related Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).

Inadequate PPE
Our next surprise was CHI was not providing adequate PPE and even telling nurses to take off face masks. At that time after giving the matter a great deal of consideration WSNA filed a complaint with the Division of Occupa­tional Safety and Health (DOSH) of Labor and Indus­tries (L&I). That investigation is currently in process.

Next, we learned there was a PPE shortage nationwide and CHI was rationing PPE. Mask distribution became controlled by management with no transparency of the supply. Nurses are being forced to wear PPE that was intended for one-time repeatedly until broken, soiled or for an entire shift. This was added to our DOSH complaint.

Low Census
Fortunately, the number of patients anticipated did not materialize. Unfortunately, the result has been nurses receiving huge amounts of low census. WSNA again tried to work with CHI management urging them to provide nurses pay while they were low censused during the pandemic. We also asked them to pay hazard pay to the nurses that were working because of the hazardous conditions they are working in due to inadequate PPE.

Voluntary Furloughs
CHI management refused both paying nurses for lost hours of work and hazard pay. Instead, CHI sent out notification they would be offering voluntary furloughs. WSNA along with SEIU and UFCW joined together to do what we could to improve the terms and conditions CHI was providing in the voluntary furlough offer. Together the unions bargained with CHI terms which includes the following:

  • Voluntary furloughs would be honored according to seniority.
  • Nurses will not be required to be on standby while on furlough.
  • Nurses may use PTO, annual leave, unpaid leave, or seek unemployment benefit insurance while on furlough.
  • CHI will not contest unemployment claims.
  • Medical benefits will be maintained during furlough.

WSNA has been, and is continuing to work hard with the hospital, local, state, and federal leaders to try and rectify the PPE situation and to ensure this does not happen again in the future. We are also continuing to fight for hazard pay while nurses are not provided adequate PPE. If you have not signed the petition for Safe Working Conditions and Hazard Pay please sign the petition now.

File a Staffing Concern / Assignment Despite Objection (ADO) Forms when you have a concern. These forms are for any kind of concern from inadequate PPE, to staffing ratios and everything in between. These forms provide documentation of what is really happening. They are reviewed by the staffing committee, have been used in DOSH complaints, and are hugely important. They are electronic and easy to do: https://www.wsna.org/union/ado

More Resources
For more COVID related resources follow this link: https://www.wsna.org/nursing-practice/covid-19

In Solidarity,
Barbara Friesen, bfriesen@wsna.org