Is this any way to retain nurses?

  1. Soooo..... We've been unionized with our state nurses assoc since 1983, with significant monetary and professional standard contract gains ever since, and once again are in negotiations with the hospital for a new contract. Is it just us, or does anyone else get the impression that this hospital is doing all it can to drive our nurses out of their jobs???......

    On the first day of the first negotiating session, in its opening statements, the hospital refused to recognize some of the RNs on our negotiating team - which had been elected by the rest of the staff RNs to represent them - and refused to release them for negotiations, even though it is required to do so according to our contract. So, in the first 5 minutes of the first negotiating session, the hospital committed an illegal act & we had to stop to file a grievance for arbitration. Nice way to set the tone.

    They canceled the next session and gave us dates to meet only once a week. They have given us dates into September, so they apparently have no plans to settle this contract quickly. It expired in June.

    At the following session, they announced that recruitment and retention is their focus - BUT they specified that they meant recruitment & retention of new grads. In keeping with that, they proposed to cut the experienced RNs' tuition reimbursement in half & apply that money to establishing sign on bonuses for new grads. They blatantly said they want to be able to take money from experienced nurses & give it to new hires who already start with a base of almost $60,000/yr right out of school. Nice slap in the face for the nurses who already work here.

    Then our hospital is refusing to implement retirement benefits that our union RNs have obtained at other area hospitals and, to add insult to injury, is also insisting on cutting its contributions to our retirement annuity plan in half. They also do not want to allow new hires to be vested in 3 years, as the rest of us are, and want to create a 2-tier system by forcing new hires to wait 5 yrs for vesting. So they can work 5 yrs worth of wasted time with nothing added to their retirement funds.

    It's insisting on reducing our medical benefits and wants to make us start paying for them too. And it wants to deny new hires the immediate medical benefits they are currently entitled to - forcing them to work more than a month with no benefits at all. Theyll just be out of luck if they get hit by a car on the way to work. What incentive is there for a new nurse to work here when they are more valued at the next facility?

    The hospital also wants the right to change our medical benefits plan and providers whenever it feels like it. It's prevented from doing that now.

    It's also refusing pay increases in experience, education, charge, shift, or preceptor differentials and offered only a 2% raise. It wants to cut our continuing ed days and reimbursements. It got rid of all the clinical nurse specialists and expects the staff RNs to assume that role for new nurses - without compensation and without a decrease in the RN's pt load. It refused to increase pay for outside experience and insists on being allowed to continue paying a newly hired experienced nurse for up to only 10 years of her outside experience, while we have gotten hospitals all around us to do away with that ceiling and they now pay the nurse for ALL her years in nursing. This hospital also wants to cap the salaries of its own long-time nurses and stop their current increases paid for anything over 25 years at this facility - no matter how long they work there. Again, not competitive with our other hospitals that now recognize and compensate the RN for all her years in nursing. Whats the incentive for an experienced nurse to work here when she is valued more at the next hospital?

    The hospital is violating the contract restrictions on mandatory ot pending the arbitration hearing on the matter. It also wants cuts in sick time and retribution against us if we use a sick day. THEN, if we have a sick day, but work an over time shift in that same pay period - mandatory or voluntary - they want to only pay us straight time for the OT and not count the sickday hours in the calculation. We envision the supervisors searching the rolls for anyone who had a sick day that week. We forsee that that's the person who will be mandated to work OT so the hospital can save on the time and a half payroll expense.

    There is a punitive atmosphere of intimidation and nurses are suddenly being disciplined for every little thing (like thats really going to scare us into backing down). For example, a unit secretary didnt do her paper work "in a timely fashion" so the NURSE was disciplined. An neurosurgical RN was floated to a med-surg floor & paired with a nurses aid who was floated from mother/baby. An order was written for a lab draw on a pt at change of shift. Lab techs have been laid off & the nurses aid is expected to do those jobs. The RN was still busy with pt care. The mother/baby aid was not certified to draw labs so the RN delegated the lab draw to the aide coming onto the next shift. She gave report, alerted the next RN, stayed late to finish her charting, reminded the aid & the RN about the labs, and went home. She was then written up for not drawing the labs herself before she left.

    The grievances will get all these ridiculous disciplines thrown out, but the effect that nonsense like this has on morale is not so easily fixed. One nurse reported a patient safety problem in his unit to our union delegate. That nurse was then harrassed by management and fired. That was illegal and he will win his job back, along with back pay once the arbitration is heard - but he will not accept the job back - and we lost another excellent RN. There are all these grievances, arbitrations, and Unfair Labor Practice charges filed with the NLRB up the wazzoooo, but the hospital doesnt seem to care.

    It's demanding that we allow nurses to be disciplined if there are any doctor complaints about them or their unit or if their unit's Press Ganey patient satisfaction surveys are not improved - even though doctors' and patients' complaints usually stem from the fact that there isnt enough staff - and that is not the nurses fault - but the hospital is demanding that we actually agree to hold ourselves responsible for it. It also wants to be able to force the nurses who have received complaints or nurses on units that have not improved their customer satisfaction surveys to attend "customer satisfaction" courses - on our own time and at our own expense as punishment.

    In this current round of contract negotiations, the hospital is even demanding the elimination of our clinical divisions and wants to be allowed to have unrestricted floating, irregardless of whether the RN has training in the area she is floated to or not. Thats something we did away with 20 years ago! But the hospital wants it back. It's refusing to implement 12 hr flextime on units that dont already have it, even though our contract allowed for alternative work schedules and required the hospital to consider it on any unit where the RNs want it. Although they agreed to that long ago, the hospital has refused to abide by it - another violation - and told us to "take it to arbitration".
    Ok. Done.

    It also wants to change our hard-won staffing ratios - because there is no state law that says they must have staffing ratios. (our union's nurses wrote the bill for that state law, got it into the legislature, but it hasnt yet been passed, therefore the hospital is not yet forced to provide staffing ratios by law). So, they want the critical care RN-to-pt staffing ratio changed from 1:2 to make it 1:3. They want the med-surg and oncology ratio to go up to 1:8/9. They want the L&D ratio to be 1:2 instead of 1:1. They accused the nursing staff of slacking off on the job and think we dont have enough work to do to justify our salaries if we dont have that many patients to be responsible for. Instead of instituting measures that would make the place one that nurses want to work in, being able to attract, hire, and keep the staff we need, the assistant VP of Human Resources shrugged his shoulders and actually stated "We dont have the staff for the current ratios. They need to be changed because we dont have the staff. If you force us to comply with your ratios, we'll just mandate YOU with ot to meet them".

    Cant even call that a "hidden" threat.

    With all the media attention on why nurses are leaving hospital jobs, youd think this kind of attitude towards nurses would be past us & administration would be eager to find ways to bring us back to the bedside. No such reality here.

    Why would any nurse want to work at my hospital? Maybe the fact that they wont doesnt matter. The hospital is also demanding to eliminate our entire long-standing job security clause from our contract. Hmmm... does that mean Lay-offs are planned??

    After hearing all these proposals, I thought they were joking. Our jaws hit the floor when we realized they werent. We asked if they read the newspapers lately and if they knew what the reasons were that RNs do not want to work at the bedsides anymore.

    The corporation VP told us to our faces: "This is a business. We have to run it economically and do whats best for the business. We are not going to lose in business just for some RNs. If we dont have business - YOU dont have a job."

    We responded:"Without nurses, YOU dont have a business".
    And that was the end of that negotiations session.

    I cant believe that they actually had the audacity to seriously make these kinds of demands of us in this time of bedside nurse shortages - and in the same breath state they are "focusing on retention". How is any of this going to attract nurses & keep them working here? Its just going to drive them straight to the hospital around the corner or down the street, where the RNs are in the same union and the hospital administration there does read the newspapers.

    Bear in mind that if we were not a union, the administration could have made all these changes already all by itself & we'd already be living with it all. But since we ARE a union, they cant do any of it unless we agree. And we dont. The hospital so far will not change its position or even listen to reason, so the nurses are already demanding that our union take a strike vote to make it listen. This is how hospitals provoke and cause nurses strikes.

    Our hospital just posted about 30 vacant RN positions. Some had been filled just a few months ago but those nurses have already left. And it thinks that while its doing all of the above, sign-on bonuses for new grads, with money stolen from experienced nurses, are going to make a difference.

    The hospital has the attitude it has towards nurses, makes the kinds of contract proposals and demands that it has just made, and then cant understand why it cant fill the spots & keep them filled.
    Well... duh.....

    I am a staff RN in the ICU and am on the negotiating team. Yesterday I kept getting called to the phone to take calls from staff nurses all over the hospital wanting to make it clear that, if the hospital doesnt move off its stance, the nurses are ready to take a strike vote & authorize our union to schedule a strike, rather than allow any of the hospitals demands as they are. (The union takes direction and its orders from the staff nurses - it's not the other way around)

    Another negotiating session is tomorow.
    I just cant wait to hear what the hospital has come up with to show how much it disrespects & devalues us next.
    Last edit by -jt on Jul 7, '03
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  2. 88 Comments

  3. by   AlaskaKat
    Excuse me for a minute while I pick my chin up off the floor... I am in total amazement! You guys have your work cut out for you, don't give up! Good luck!
  4. by   Gomer
    Originally posted by -jt
    .... and once again are in negotiations with the hospital for a new contract.....
    the hospital refused to recognize some of the RNs on our negotiating team.....
    They canceled the next session.... they proposed to cut the experienced RNs' tuition reimbursement in half & apply that money to establishing sign on bonuses for new grads....Then our hospital is refusing to implement retirement benefits.... It's insisting on reducing our medical benefits and wants to make us start paying for them too....It also wants to change our hard-won staffing ratios
    What a surprise....negotiating a contract means just that...negotiating. What you had before is gone and you must negotiate to get back whatever you think your lost. I don't know how your state laws work, but in California each and every time a contract has expired (or will expire) everything in that contract is up for re-negotation. Just because you had something in one contract doesn't mean it will carry on over to the next contract.

    It sounds like your hospital is doing more union busting than worrying about recruitment and retention.
  5. by   pickledpepperRN
    "WITHOUT NURSES YOU DON'T HAVE A BUSINESS"

    Good for you. I think they are scared and acting like hissing, fuzzed up cats.

    I agree that for the sake of your patients don't give up.
    Please excuse me for saying what you already know but make sure a report of each bargaining session and delay tactic complete with quotes gets to all the nurses.
    I would cry if they thought you were the ones rather than the hospital.
    The public will find out soon too, I bet.

    Does your union have a web site?
  6. by   -jt
    <in California each and every time a contract has expired (or will expire) everything in that contract is up for re-negotation>

    Well in NY, we dont re-negotiate the ENTIRE contract. Not everything is up for re-negotiation. Only the items we want to change. The staff RNs decide whiich items need to be changed and negotiations is about only the few items that each side brings to the table. Not the whole contract. The rest of the contract stays unchanged. And in NY, once a contract expires, it remains in effect in its entirety until we agree on a new one & ratify it with a vote. Until then, the current contract still stands. Nothing is "gone" unless we agree to give it away. There is also something called "past-practice". And one thing is non-negotiable association-wide: Our nurses do not pay for healthcare benefits. So there is no negotiating that issue.

    http://www.nysna.org/news/press/press.htm
    Last edit by -jt on Jul 7, '03
  7. by   rck213
    Sounds exactly like the attitude at my facility, we are in Central NY
    Is it a New York State Administrative mentality?
  8. by   purplemania
    You listed plenty of reasons why I feel unions are worthless. We are not unionized and have MUCH better benefits than you outlined. Vote with your feet----leave
  9. by   Gomer
    Originally posted by -jt
    <in California each and every time a contract has expired (or will expire) everything in that contract is up for re-negotation>

    Well in NY, we dont re-negotiate the ENTIRE contract. Not everything is up for re-negotiation. Only the items we want to change. .

    Are you saying that only labor has an input on what can be changed in a contract? Management has no say? Very strange...management must be very weak in your state.
  10. by   Hardknox
    Originally posted by purplemania
    You listed plenty of reasons why I feel unions are worthless. We are not unionized and have MUCH better benefits than you outlined. Vote with your feet----leave
    If this hospital didn't have a union, these proposed changes would be a done deal. Obviously, your hospital administration is not comprised of money-grubbing bottom liners like JT's or you would never have made such a statement!
  11. by   -jt
    <It sounds like your hospital is doing more union busting than worrying about recruitment and retention.>

    Thats nothing new. Its par for the course. 20 yrs and they still havent gotten used to the idea that NYC nurses will not just take whatever abuse administrators want to dish out.

    In fact the corporation's VP actually said she wished she was dealing with SEIU/1199 instead of our professional RN union because she felt that SEIU/1199 wouldnt be giving her so much trouble fighting for the nurses. She meant it as an insult to us. We took it as a compliment & confirmation that we're doing something right.



    <We are not unionized and have MUCH better benefits than you outlined. >

    Thats probably because you have a progressive management. It has more to do with the administration's attitude than the union. If you had an administration like mine, this already would have all been done to you and you wouldnt be able to do a thing about it. They cant do any of that stuff to us unless we agree to it. And we wont. So they cant. Thats reason enough for me to be a union.

    What are you going to do the day your current administration leaves and you end up with carbon copies of mine?

    We cant make our administration respect us as much as your current one does, but we can stop them from implementing their demands. You cant. They need our permission to do what they want to do. We're not giving them permission. So they are stopped in their tracks. If we werent a union, they could do whatever they want to us and we'd already be living with the devastating give-backs, salary reductions, and other changes. Since we are a union, we're not going to be and we have the ability to make them change their demands. Thats the difference.

    But I didnt intend to start another union vs non union debate. I just want to know what other nurses think about a hospital having this kind of attitude towards its nurses in the midst of a shortage of nurses who are willing to work at the bedsides. I find it to be incredulous and very contradictory when they are all complaining that they "cant find nurses".
    Last edit by -jt on Jul 7, '03
  12. by   Gomer
    -jt, I just checked with the NLRB website and unless it is stated in your current contract that only labor has a right to change the contract (how stupid can your management be to have signed such a contract in the first place) and specifically that certain items are non-negotiable....EVERYTHING is negotiable by both sides.
  13. by   -jt
    <Are you saying that only labor has an input on what can be changed in a contract?>

    No thats not what Im saying. When I said only the items "we" want to change get re-negotiated, in using the word "we", I was referring to both sides of the negotiating team. If you re-read, youll see that I said "negotiations is about only the few items that each side brings to the table.

    But let me clarify for you:

    We, the nurses, bring to the table only a few items from the contract that we, the nurses, want changed. They, the administration, also bring to the table a few items from the contract that they, the administration, wants changed. The point is that its NOT the whole ENTIRE contract that gets re-negotiated. You said that in your state, the entire expired contract is lost and everything has to be re-negotiated. That is not how its done here.

    The entire expired contract remains intact & in effect even after its expired. Only the few items that have been brought forward by each side at the first session get re-negotiated. Those are the only things that may be changed. The entire rest of the prior contract is automatically carried over to the new contract.

    If we or the administration forget to put an item on the table for re-negotiation at that first session, we're out of luck. It cant be brought up later, and it stays as is for the next contract. Nothing is automatically "lost" from the prior contract. We dont have to re-negotiate the whole thing. And nothing from the few items that are being re-negotiated is "lost" unless we agree to give it away.

    I think we have a combined total of maybe just 11 items for re-negotiation this time. Some of them might be discussed, some might be removed from the table.

    One item the hospital brought for negotiation is their demand that nurses pay for their healthcare benefits. That item is non-negotiable association-wide, which means our professional RN union considers it to be a standing item not open for negotiations. We dont believe RNs working in hospitals should have to pay for healthcare. We dont do it and will not even entertain the thought by negotiating it. I expect that item will be removed from the table.

    Anyway, sorry for getting off topic. I really just wanted to know what nurses thought about the hospital having this kind of attitude in the midst of a national refusal of nurses to work at the bedsides.
    Last edit by -jt on Jul 7, '03
  14. by   pickledpepperRN
    Seems to me the administration either does not care about patients or is ignorant enough to think they don't need nurses.

    Nurses give them trouble wanting equipment and personnel to care for patients. Unlicened people wouldn't know enough to ask for what the patients need.

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