Oregon: Extra strike pay to nurses illegal

  1. Extra strike pay to nurses illegal, state board says

    01/30/02 JOE ROJAS-BURKE

    Oregon Health & Science University broke the law by paying bonus wages to every nursing employee who returned to work during the ongoing strike, a state agency ruled Tuesday. In a unanimous decision, the state Employment Relations Board ordered OHSU to stop paying the extra $7.50 an hour. The university offered the extra wages to all nurses working all shifts during the first weeks of the strike but said it has since limited the incentive.

    The bonus payments exceeded anything the employer offered in negotiations with the union, which amounted to bad-faith bargaining, the board ruled. And bonus payments to lure nurses back to work also interfered with the right of employees to strike, the board said. The nurses' victory could be costly for

    The board deemed the violations "sufficiently serious" to consider a range of penalties. The three-member board, appointed by the governor, said it would rule on the question of penalties by the end of February. Union nurses, who have been on strike for 44 days, are demanding that OHSU reimburse the striking nurses an amount equal to the extra wages paid to at least 225 nurses who crossed the picket line -- or take back the money from those who crossed the picket line.

    "The Employment Relations Board has pretty broad jurisdiction to do whatever they think is fair," said Hank Kaplan, attorney for the Oregon Nurses Association. OHSU argued that it was justified under state law to pay the higher wages because of the medical emergency and business necessity. The board concluded that no medical emergency existed, in part because OHSU never
    sought a court order to stop the strike. The ruling concluded that the dire business situation "was at least partially self-inflicted and was not unexpected," and so did not justify the employer's actions.

    An OHSU spokesman Tuesday said the medical center paid the extra wages in the first weeks of the strike to overcome the uncertainty about staffing enough nurses to care for patients. "All shifts were declared in critical need," said Jim Newman, the spokesman. He said the medical center two weeks ago stopped the across-the-board incentive payments and began limiting the extra wages to certain hard-to-fill shifts.
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  3. by   RNKitty
    Wow! I've been reading about this strike with interest, since we might end up in Portland next year. Yeah for the nurses! I hope the Board decides the hospital has to pay the striking nurses, not take away money from nurses who already worked the shift.
  4. by   -jt
    <take away money from nurses who already worked the shift.>

    Why not? That was an ILLEGAL BRIBE. In which illegal rackets are the people allowed to keep illegal bribes or other blood money?

    It wouldnt bother me in the least if the had to pay it back. They may say they crossed their strike line for noble reasons & not the money but if those nurses crossed for other reasons not the bribe money - then it shouldnt bother them to give it back either, because they would have crossed the line even if the illegal money was never offered, right?

    Those nurses crossed their own strike line for a bribe of $7.50/hr. Paying that money broke the law. If the Board decides that the RNs now have to pay it back, its their own fault for accepting those "30 pieces of silver" in the first place and hanging themselves.

    Of the more than 1500 RNs on strike, only 225 took the bribe and crossed their line - a very small percentage. It will be interesting to see if they continue to cross their strike line when they arent being paid the illegal pay-off anymore. The great majority of those 1500 RNs stayed united & maintained their integrity and dignity.

    Its not too hard to guess which course the hospital may push the board for - Which would be easier and less expensive for the hospital: imburse hundreds of thousands of dollars to the 1500 RNs who didnt cross or just take back the $7.50/hr it already illegally paid to the 225 who did cross?

    Since they still have to stop paying the bribe anyway, I wouldnt mind either option.
  5. by   RNKitty
    Part of me would like to see the option that hurts the hospital the most financially, and gives a boon to the strikers. I wouldn't feel sorry for the scabs if they had to pay back the money, but it would cost the hospital more to do the other option.

    However, I am really hoping they resolve this issue. My favorite mentor used to work there, and she was on the picket lines with her old colleagues on Christmas. The way she tells it, administration sounds very "anti-nursing" (in her words). It is unfortunate, because I firmly believe fair negotiation can benefit all sides.

    The other reason I want them to resolve the issue: we might move there next year. If it is unresolved, the other hospitals probably will have their pick of good nurses and my job options will be fewer. If they resolve it before we get there, more job opportunities will be opened up - hopefully with better contracts. (Yes, it really is all about me )
  6. by   RNed
    We should remind ourselves the hospital is the villian in the action of attempting to bride nurses to return to work.

    Athough the replacement nurses exercised poor judgement in accepting this money, when viewed from other nurses who were on strike, it is the "offer" and "payment" of the money that was found to be against labor laws.

    We make a mistake running down replacement nurses and distract the media and others from the true offenders on contract negotiations. It is OHSU that is at fault and it is OHSU that should make additional payments to make it "right".

    We should not penalize those replacement nurses. Although the unions would like to continue this message that replacement nurses (SCABS) harm the unions and attempts to villianize them as much as possible, it has done little good in past negotiations except to divide nursing. OSHU is the offender here, not the replacement nurses. They, the replacemnt nurses, may offend the union, however, most of them are in it for the money and have no intent or desire to hurt their fellow nurses. Yes, to an extent they do harm the negotiations, why? Becasue the union starts spending energy and precious resources on fighting two foes rather than on the one they should be focusing on, OHSU.

    Forget about the replacement nurses. If replacement nurses were the answer to OHSU problems they wouldn't be in negotiations with the union. OSHU's problems would be solved and they would not come to the table.

    Focus on the negotiations with OSHU and let the hospital continue to pay "dearly" for those few replacement nurses. In fact tell them if they offered more money they could get more replacement nurses. Tell the community this is what OSHU is willing to pay out-of-community nurses to care for our patients and in the same breath ask why they are unwilling to pay our community nurses the same rate to care for our patients. Is it because they (OSHU) doesn't care about our community? The more it cost OSHU in PR and money, the more motivation to settle.

    Eventually, OSHU will see the need to settle. OSHU knows how mcuh they are willing to pay, when the cost exceeds the willingless to pay they will settle.
  7. by   fergus51
    I don't get it. If I gain money from an illegal act I don't get to keep it do I? Why would the replacement nurses? Does anyone know what the law says about this case?
  8. by   RNed
    I don't know about the law. However, the nurses did not do an illegal act in receiving compensation for services rendered.

    However, the hospital did an illegal act in offering this compensation. It is the hospital that is illegal and not the nurses.

    The money received by the nurses was not obtained illegally and in my humble opinion should not be paid back. The hospital paid those nurses over and above the offer to pay regular staff - that is illegal under the currrent fair labor laws.

    Therefore, the nurses should get to keep their money.

    The hospital was illegal and should pay a penalty for that activity.

    To bad for the hospital.
  9. by   -jt
    <<We should remind ourselves the hospital is the villian in the action of attempting to bride nurses to return to work.......
    Athough the replacement nurses exercised poor judgement in accepting this money, when viewed from other nurses who were on strike, it is the "offer" and "payment" of the money that was found to be against labor laws.........However, the hospital did an illegal act in offering this compensation. It is the hospital that is illegal and not the nurses........ I wouldn't feel sorry for the scabs if they had to pay back the money, but it would cost the hospital more to do the other option......... >>

    RNed makes a good argument. Thanks for pointing it out.
    As far as what the law states on the issue, the Board is in the process of deciding that now.
  10. by   -jt
    Just a few interesting details about this strike:

    * OHSU pays its nurse employees an average of $24 an hour, but during the strike it has hired many out-of-state nurses as temporary replacements who are unfamiliar with the facility, at $52 an hour, plus travel and hotel expenses. Even with the just the $7.50/hr illegaly offered its staff RNs to cross their own strike line, the hospital is spending an exorbitant amount on the out of state replacements - including overtime.

    * During the Strike, OHSU has been operating at about 75% of normal capacity. A conservative estimate of the loss of business and the cost of replacement nurses is $22 million in the last 36 DAYS. If OHSU had signed the two-year contract their nurses are seeking, the cost would have been $19 million over TWO YEARS instead of $22 million in just 36 DAYS.

    * The Oregon Legislature appropriates approximately $100 million to OHSU in tax dollars. One concern raised is that some of this taxpayer money is now helping OHSU pay for their costs of fighting the strike. (so if its tax dollars that pay for it, do they care how much they spend trying to hold down their nurses?)

    * OHSU records show that during the strike, replacement nurses and those who have crossed the picket line have been required to work more than 12 hours a day, 14 days in a row. Oregonians are worried about pt safety & pt care, yet, in a recent poll, more than 60% support the nurses in their fight.
  11. by   NRSKarenRN
    Received this response on Florence Projects listserve from Mary Robinson and reprinting with permission:

    I am a member of the McLaren RNs in Flint, Michigan who were on strike for 73 days from November 8, 2000 until January 22, 2001. We had tremendous support from the community. Flint is the home of the UAW and the famous sit-down strike. Many labor unions supported us. We picketed 24 hrs. a day 7 days a week. Very few of our members crossed the picket line. Our issues were mandatory overtime and wage parity. To the RNs who cross any picket line, I say, "SHAME ON YOU!" Nurses must support each other to protect our patients. Crossers are selfish individuals who don't care about protecting our profession.


    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Feb 2, '02
  12. by   RNed
    <Nurses must support each other to protect our patients. Crossers are selfish individuals who don't care about protecting our profession. >

    I agree replacement nurses cause some disruption during negotiations, however, most I have met care about nursing as a profession. Their act of crossing a picket line is about money. It is not a statement about nursing or patients.

    Let's face it - this is not an issue about patient care as the line implys, nor is it an issue between staff nurses and replacement nurses. It is between the adminstration (facility), who wish to compensation nurses with the lease amount possible and the staff who wish to be paid what they are worth.

    Let's not fight with those who cross the picket line, they are few in numbers, have no authority, are not the decision makers or winners and they do not determine the final outcome. In fact they charge excessive fees to keep the doors of the hospital open. The hospital continues to pay liability insurance, electricity, water, supplies, retirements, doctors and payroll and all during a time of low patient loads and therefore reduced income. They are also exposed to greater risk of errors using an unfamilar staff . If the hospital actually closed, transferred all the patients and turned out the lights, they would save millions of dollars and be less likely to sit at the table to negotiate. We may believe those who cross the picket line do us a dis-service, then again, that might not be true. Having been on both sides of this table, I feel assured they are just as concerned about what it is costing to keep the doors open currently as they are about what it might cost them to settle.

    The fight is not with those that cross the picket line - the fight is with those that caused the picket line.

    Nurses must support each other to protect nurses, not patients'.
  13. by   RNPD
    While I still feel nothing but disdain for scabs who line their pockets all the while making it easier for a facility to avoid negotiations, RNed has made some very good points . I never saw it from the point of view as to who we need to focus our energy and resouces on-those who caused the picket line, since those who crossed it have very little power in the scheme of things.

    Thanks for giving this union supporter an alternate point of view.
  14. by   Cascadians
    The Evil Witch "Nurse" who is using every bully 'management' technique invented to screw the nurses used to be our boss at OHSU.

    No news of abuse or underhanded tactics would surprise us ...