Los Angeles Daily News
Nurses to get raises
A.V. Hospital pact approved
By Karen Maeshiro
Monday, August 04, 2003 - LANCASTER -- Antelope Valley Hospital nurses will get raises of 18 percent to 38 percent over the next three years under a tentative contract agreement reached between the hospital and the California Nurses Association.
The agreement, affecting about 525 registered nurses at the hospital, will make them among the highest paid nurses in Los Angeles County, union officials said.
"It's a well-deserved contract that's going to ensure quality patient care. It will give us a tool to recruit and retain nurses, and we are really happy about that," said Colleen Sichley, a mental health nurse. "I can't even tell you how happy I am."
The agreement, reached about 2:45 a.m. Saturday and capping 17 months of organizing effort, must be ratified by the nurses and approved by the hospital board. The contract's cost to the hospital was not available.
Under the pact, beginning RNs will start at $23 an hour, and after a year go up to $24.90 an hour. Nurses with 30 years of experience will earn $42.19 an hour.
Charge nurses will earn up to $46.41 per hour by the end of the agreement.
"This was designed to make Antelope Valley Hospital competitive with salaries down below so that nurses who graduate from Antelope Valley College would look at Antelope Valley Hospital as their first choice rather than hitting the 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) every day," said Alan Hanson, an organizer with the CNA.
The hospital board voted in April to recognize the CNA after a count of cards turned in by union supporters showed that a majority of nurses wanted the union to represent them, officials said.
The recognition came after nearly a year of controversy over the unionization effort and was followed by rival union Service Employees International Union, which also is seeking to represent hospital workers, filing a complaint with the state labor board.
Other highlights of the pact include a commitment to improve the existing benefit pension plan and explore retiree health care benefits; replacing a merit pay system with guaranteed pay steps; and restrictions on floating, the practice of requiring RNs to work in clinical where they do not have specialty expertise, CNA officials said.
The pact also will place a ban on mandatory overtime. Forced overtime will only be permitted when RNs are in the midst of an operation, delivery, or invasive procedure, or during a community disaster, the CNA said.
Nurses also will have input on the implementation of new state-mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios that will begin to take effect in January.
The hospital board last year resisted recognizing the CNA as the nurses' representative, saying hospital rules required a secret-ballot election rather than the authorization cards.
But the board dropped its opposition after the state Public Employment Relations Board ruled in October that the hospital must conduct a card count and the November election defeat of two board incumbents by directors June Snow and Dr. Don Parazo, who had been supported in their campaigns by the CNA.
Karen Maeshiro can be reached at (661) 267-5744 and firstname.lastname@example.org