Staten Island RNs & NYSNA ABOLISH Mandatory OT

  1. Staten Island University Hospital Registered Nurses OK 3-year contract
    Hospital agrees to a 16-percent raise and the ABOLISHMENT of forced overtime -

    Friday, October 12, 2001
    SI ADVANCE STAFF WRITER

    After nine months of grueling -- and sometimes nasty -- negotiations, Registered Nurses at Staten Island University Hospital, represented by the New York State Nurses Association, have approved a three-year contract -- the first in this borough to prohibit the fiercely contested practice of mandated overtime....

    Under the new contract, which has a retroactive start date of April 1, the hospital will increase nurses' salaries by 16 percent over the three years, fill roughly 80 more full-time positions and pay up to $4,000 each year in health care coverage to retired nurses....

    Both hospital management and officials from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), the union representing the 840 Registered Nurses (RNs) at the facility, were relieved by the contract agreement, which was passed by an overwhelming majority of RN union members. Neither side wanted more protests or all-night bartering sessions and both repeatedly claimed patient care was their first priority......

    "We had 27 sessions," said Bernadette Bellantoni, a SIUH Registered Nurse and a member of the union negotiating team. "I think it's a decent and fair contract, it's something to build on." ......

    The biggest victory for the nurses, the prohibition of mandated overtime, goes into effect in February, giving the hospital time to recruit staff RNs and fill some of those 80 full time positions. Abolishment of mandatory overtime was won after a long and hard-fought battle in which the union considered, but never actually voted on, striking.......

    Hospital officials had said until now that a nursing shortage made it impossible to eliminate mandated overtime. They ultimately then concluded that ENDING the practice would HELP in recruiting more nurses.......

    "It's difficult to abolish mandated overtime and maintain appropriate staffing levels," said Anthony Ferreri, the recently hired executive vice president for the hospital. "[But] the idea here is to make the hospital a more attractive employer to bring in more nurses." ........

    As commonly occurs when one group of RNs is successful in their contract negotiations and gains improvements at their facility, there may be an impact on other facilities in the area to up their standards or risk losing their own staff to the facility that has made the improvements. Many observers said the new mandated overtime provision will pressure Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, Staten Island Region, which has also been involved in bitter negotiations with nurses, to do the same. Nurses at St Vincents are also represented by NYSNA, but hospital officials would not comment on the issue......

    The unpopular and fiercely opposed practice of mandated overtime, in which a nurse could be forced to work back-to-back, eight-hour shifts or more, with little notice, has been criticized as "exhausting" and "unsafe." The prohibition, the union said, will improve working conditions across the board and allow for more bedside care........

    "After so many months of being stubborn, the hospital administration realized that they need to make some changes if they want to attract more nurses and be competitive," said Mark Genovese, a spokesman for NYSNA........

    Though rarely used in the past, mandatory overtime has existed for decades, but hospitals all over the country have relied on it as a staffing measure more in the last two or three years, since the beginning of a nursing shortage........

    "Our goal was to improve patient care and to do that we need to improve recruitment and retention," said Patricia Kane, a Registered Nurse in the SIUH heart surgery tower and a member of the negotiating team........

    Mrs. Bellantoni, RN, who has worked at the hospital for 22 years, agreed and said negotiations accelerated after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and cooperation among the two sides became a more pressing concern.........

    The only exception to mandated overtime is in the event of a disaster such as last month's. (Interestingly, no RNs had to be forced to work extra shifts at that time - they volunteered.).....

    "You are not selling apples and oranges," said Mrs. Bellantoni. "You are taking care of lives. We want to leave feeling that we did our jobs well, and you need the numbers of nurses to do that." ......

    The average base salary for nurses at University Hospital will increase by 16 percent to $55,000 per year by 2003, not including differentials for evening/night shift, experience, certification, or education. All nurses will get an 8-percent raise this year, and a 4-percent increase for the next two years.........

    Management also agreed to fill 80 full-time slots and hire more float pool nurses to substitute when others call in sick. The union conceded on this issue and agreed to a more lenient hiring timeline..........

    Several other contract provisions, including extending to 22 years the period of time a nurse is eligible for a raise, were also added. Previously, raises were capped and stopped after 20 years.........

    Both sides said they were pleased with the final product and hoped the new contract would solve some of problems at the institution........

    "Of course this isn't like waving a magic wand and making everything OK," Genovese said. "Now the real work begins."

    2001 The Staten Island Advance.
    Used with permission.
    http://www.SILive.com
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  2. 1 Comments

  3. by   -jt
    Congratulations SI RNS & NYSNA!>>>

    Staten Island University Hospital Nurses Approve New Contract:
    Abolishes mandatory overtime, guarantees safe staffing levels

    STATEN ISLAND, NYC - Oct. 11, 2001 - For the past three months, intolerable working conditions have made it impossible for Staten Island University Hospital to hire even ONE registered nurse.

    RNs are hoping this situation will now change with the approval Wednesday evening of a new three-year contract that calls for improvements in the RNs' working environment.

    The 840 RNs are represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). Their most recent three-year contract expired March 31. Under the new contract, after February 1, 2002, management can no longer require nurses to work overtime, except during disasters.

    "For the past several months," said NYSNA Nursing Representative Laura Kennedy, RN, "instead of hiring enough nurses to meet the hospital's staffing needs, management has been filling vacancies in its schedule by holding nurses over from the previous shift. Such double shifts are exhausting for the nurses and dangerous for patient care." Provisions to maintain safe RN-to-patient staffing throughout the hospital will be enforceable through third party arbitration.

    The new contract also attempts to correct many of the problems that had been driving veteran nurses away from the hospital and discouraging new nurses from applying:

    * The RNs' base salary will increase by a total of 16% over the life of the contract.
    * The nurses also won increases in additional pay for longevity and for earning specialty certifications.
    * In an effort to retain its more experienced nurses, the hospital has agreed to provide nurses with up to $4,000 per year to pay for health care coverage after they retire.
    * Part-timers who work more days than they are originally hired for will receive bonus pay.
    * The number of years an RN must work in order to be exempt from rotating from day to the evening or night shifts was lowered from seven years to five.
    * In addition, the hospital's requirement that experienced RNs who transfer to new units lose this exemption for a year was eliminated.
    * RNs working in home care often have to complete an extensive amount of paperwork on their own time. They will now receive 7.5 hours pay per week for paperwork time.

    "University Hospital administration had been telling us for months that they wanted to become a leading employer for Registered Nurses," said NYSNA Labor Representative Elaine Charpentier. "The nurses replied that there were a lot of workplace problems that needed correction first. We hope we've now taken the first step."

    With more than 33,000 members, NYSNA is the leading organization for Registered Nurses in New York state and is one of the largest representatives of RNs for collective bargaining in the nation. A professional, multi-purpose organization, constituent member of the American Nurses Association and founding member of its labor arm, the United America Nurses - an AFL-CIO affiliate, NYSNA fosters high standards for nursing education and practice and works to advance the profession through legislative activity. For more information, call Mark Genovese at NYSNA: 518.782.9400, ext. 353.
    http://www.NYSNA.org

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