Hi LC. I am a nurse manager of a small not-for-profit facility in Canada that has just unionized with SEIU. I am unable to discuss the effect the union will have on our employees, however, I do not think there is anything stopping me from discussing my opion.
When the employees unionized, they said that it was not because of financial gain. I am unsure what gain they thought they could have because when it comes right down to it the only think that the union will do is protect those employees that are being treated unfairly (and I do not think that we, the management team were doing that) and make it difficult to either discipline or terminiate an unsuitable or dangerous employee.
We have been unionized for about 18 months and do not have a contract. The stumbling block is the financial package. SEIU is asking for a 44% increase in the financial package (this includes things such as increased vacation, shift premeum, sick time, increased benefits, uniform allowance etc.). This would be a disaster for our facility.
SEIU says "other facilities pay these prices", however they do not take into acount certain facts.
-The fact that we are a small facility means that we have to provide some things with a smaller amount of income then a larger facility. For example...if we need to purchase a new piece of equipment (ie med cart) that takes a larger percentage of my budget then it would from a facility twice our size.
-Being a not-for-profit facility means that there is no one making any money from the work that the emplyees do. We have a volunteer board and the mangement personal make less money then our peers in larger facilities.
-Therefore if there is an increase in the cost of employees through wages & benefits, the only way we can fund this increase willl be through a decrease in the number of hours on the floor. For example...presently I have 26 registered staff shifts per week. I will have to reduce that to 21 shifts/week (the lowest I can go) as well as I may be forced to lay off RN's and hire RPNs (LPNs). Because of our location, the RN's have asked if they will be able to work in the lesser paying job, just so that they can keep a job.
We have non registered staff who provide the direct resident care, and this is were most of the damage will be felt. I may have to cut the number of hours by at least 50%, and yet the same amount of work will have to be done. The staff tell me that they do not have enough time to get the work done now. I don't know how it will get done with less staff.
In Canada, managment is not allowed to talk openly to the employees as it is seen as threatening the staff, however, the union can say anything that they want to and no one can correct them or respond to their promises. I know that they have been promised the moon and have been told that they will have increased hours as well (they are hoping that full time staff will go from 32 hours per week to 37.5 hours per week) The truth of the matter is that all full time staff will be layed off (they are more expensive then part time) and the part time staff will have decreased hours.
As a women, I understand that we get paid less then men in equal positions, however, by trying to increase the wages and benefits at the risk of lay-offs or closures do not benefit anyone, especially our residents.
As a manager, I am afraid of the outcome of arbitration...if we are told we have to increase our wages and benefits by anything over 8% we will have to close the facility.
The other think that I don't believe that the emplyees have been told about is the cost to them..For example, there will be union dues, if you are not working full time you will be obligated to pay a portion of your benefits and pension (this may total about $200.00/month in Canada)
I am not able to share this information with our staff (I don't know if I would be believed if I did), and I hope that my view is helpful to you.
I also have some suggestions that may also help;
1-find out how you are funded and what restrictions there is on the spending of the money (for instance if we do not spend the money, we have to return it to the government)
2-ask the union to put in writting any guarentees the employees would like (ie: the maximum number of lay-offs acceptable or the minimum number of hours on the floor that is acceptable)
3-ask the union for the names and addresses of not-for-profit facilities your size that they represent and contact those employees to find out what the real benefit is to them
4-ask the union to see their contract proposal and find an accountant or lawyer who can give you the effects this contract may have on your facility.
5-meet with your managment and ask if the emplyees can represent themselves in negotiating any changes you want
I hope you will let me know how things are going with you.
Good luck...remember to take your time getting information. Don't jump into anything that you can't get out of. And if sounds too good to be true...it probably is.