"It's a well-deserved contract that's going to ensure quality patient care" ban on ma

  1. http://www.dailynews.com/Stories/0,1...551734,00.html
    Los Angeles Daily News
    Nurses to get raises
    A.V. Hospital pact approved

    By Karen Maeshiro
    Staff Writer
    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 karen.maeshiro@dailynews.com <mailto:karen.maeshiro@dailynews.com>.
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    This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Monday, August 11, 2003.
    Hospital board accepts nurses labor contract
    Valley Press Staff Writer

    LANCASTER - Antelope Valley Hospital's board of directors agreed Thursday to accept the terms of a labor contract with its registered nurses.
    With director Deborah Rice absent, the board voted 4-0 to accept the pact, which makes AV Hospital's registered nurses among the highest-paid in Los Angeles County.
    The terms were ratified by the nurses Wednesday after 56 days of negotiations with hospital management.
    The hope is that higher wages will attract new, permanent full-time nurses at a lower cost than the temporary full-time nurses the hospital has been hiring to staff about 80 more patient beds, hospital spokesman Ed Callahan said.
    By the end of the three-year contract, experienced registered nurses could be earning up to $42.19 per hour, while supervisory nurses could receive up to $46.41 per hour.
    Nursing school graduates will be paid starting salaries of $23 per hour.
    Even at those rates, the hospital could save money by not paying $60 to $65 per hour to registry firms for temporary nurses, which have been costing the medical facility about $900,000 a month.
    Because of higher wages and better working conditions elsewhere, only a small number of the 3,700 registered nurses living in the Antelope Valley area choose to work at its largest hospital, said Alan Hanson, organizer for the California Nurses Association.
    "We commend the AVH board and administration for moving so quickly to ratify the contract," Hanson said Friday.
    In addition to pay raises of 18% to 38% over 36 months, the pact includes a commitment from management to improve an existing defined-benefit pension plan and explore retiree health-care benefits as well as to give registered nurses a voice in the implementation of new nurse-to-patient ratios required under Assembly Bill 394, Hanson added.
    Callahan said the deal will cost the hospital another $6.5 million in salaries and benefits in the next three years.
    The contract will increase labor costs $2.9 million the first year, plus another $1.8 million in each of the following two years, Callahan explained.
    Given that the hospital closed its last fiscal year $5.7 million in the red, balancing its budget for the coming three years "will be a challenge" because of the labor-cost increases, he said.
    Some of the 535 registered nurses involved with the unionization effort from the beginning hailed the agreement.
    "With our first contract, we made significant gains in wages and benefits," said Larry Coffman, a registered nurse assigned to the hospital's intensive care unit.
    "This new contract will ensure that patient care is protected. It will promote recruitment of new nurses, and retain career RNs," said Colleen Sichley, a registered nurse in the mental health unit.
    Nurses at the other hospital in the Antelope Valley, Lancaster Community Hospital, won the right to unionize in 1989.
    However, the union representing the nurses at Lancaster Community, the Service Employees International, has never reached a labor agreement with management.
    The SEIU also represents workers at Los Angeles County's High Desert Hospital, which eliminated all inpatient care on July 1, and workers at Kaiser-Permanente, which has two HMO facilities in the Antelope Valley.
    At present, the SEIU is locked in battle with the CNA's sister union, the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union, to organize the remainder of AV Hospital's employees.
    Like the CNA, the CHEU sought to organize hospital workers in accordance with guidelines set forth by the National Labor Relations Board.
    The SEIU contends employees should be organized in accordance with hospital policies that were made more restrictive by the board of directors in April 2002, just as the CNA's effort got under way.
    Both the CHEU and the SEIU have filed complaints with the state Public Employment Relations board in an attempt to resolve the dispute.