3 nursing unions in NJ negotiating new contracts - page 2

HI, just so you all know there are 3 nursing unions in NJ negotiating new contracts at this time. Many have the same issues, competitive salaries, pensions, medical retirement benefits, staffing. ... Read More

  1. by   fedupnurse
    To any RWJ nurses who may read this board, first of all, I wish you the best of luck in your fight. There are some things you must prepare for if you do strike. I know these issues first hand since I was on an ice cold picket line for 3 long months a few years back, in fact, not to far from where RWJ is located.
    1. Be prepared to be blackballed from other local hospitals. I'd imagine that would include Meridian since there is now an affiliation there. We had to go to Trenton and North Jersey when they forced us out. Our issues were different. We were forced out due to a union busting attempt on the part of the hospital. This leads me to:
    2. We had tremendous public support. The public saw the hospitals actions for what they were. The economy back then was good and due to the horrific winter, we were all able to work, as long as we were willing to travel at least 40 miles or more. Try to garner the public support now. I don't think it's going to be as easy due to the bad economy and the fact that so many employees have lost pensions entirely over the past few years. Start going to local town council meetings NOW, not when you go out on strike. Explain what is going on to the public who live around the sending communities to the hospital.
    3. Contact Magnet, the Governors office and the State DOH and loudly insist that various services be closely watched and closed if necessary. Our strike was finally ended when someone at the State Level demanded the hospital negotiate in good faith with us or they would lose things like Trauma, the Cath Lab and Open Heart certs. You have to hit them where they live and we all know that is $$$$$$$. We had a contract within 24 hours or so of this threat being made to the suits.
    4. Stick together. If you don't like how the Union officials are handling things SPEAK UP about it to them. Don't go in and try to make secret little deals with the suits. It will kill you faster than you know. Present a united front to the suits at all times.
    5. If you do go out, expect the hospital to show a business as usual attitude. They will lie trough their teeth to make the public think all is well. If patients ask you prior to the start of the strike who will take over in your absence tell them the truth: managers and supervisors, many of whom haven't provided direct patient care in many years. If they ask what to do tell them if it was your family member you'd have them moved out of the hospital to another safer facility.
    If you have speciic questions please PM me. Striking is a serious issue. I've been through it and would e happy to provide you with whatever information I can to help you.
  2. by   NurseJacqui
    If the nurses actually went on strike and agency or " scab" nurses as they are so affectionately called are harassed for working in their place and decide against working there...then what happens to the patients? Who takes care of them? You have to excuse me as I am not part of a union and am rather ignorant on the subject. But if nursing is the backbone of the hospital and all of the nurses strike, what happens to the patients? Can any of this constitute patient abandonment? Who ultimately pays the price? I am not arguing that nurses don't deserve more money and compensation but I guess if my loved one was a patient in one of these hospitals where the nurses were threatening to strike I would be scared to death!
    Last edit by NurseJacqui on Jul 25, '03
  3. by   ainz
    fedupnurse is correct--the only way to get nurses' message across is to talk in $$$$. With executive compensation packages like what we see in this thread (CEO of RWJ), you can see the incentive the executives in administration have to make their numbers.

    It is all about maximizing profits (in the non-proftis--revenue). Nurses must learn to communicate in $$$$. Nursing must be able to demonstrate, through generalizable research, that NURSING care (not medical, UAP, or any other discipline) contributes to positive patient outcomes and that contributes to the hospital's bottom line. If we cannot, as a profession, prove this then we are in serious trouble.

    Unions and contract negotiations etc., are OK for the short term, but the premise from which this activity comes is NOT THE DIRECTION we need to be going for nursing. Professionals, true professions, don't strike against an employer as hourly, manual labor employees do. We need to elevate our professional status and rise above the paid-by-the-hour mentality. It simply keeps us down and perpetuates the notion of "any warm body can do that" and at a cheaper rate. Being paid by the hour continues to give the employer control over our future and destiny. We need to be able to bill payor directly for our services. But do do this we must define our services, prove their value and worth through research-backed data, define what a "nurse" is and what a "nurse" does. We must clearly define the avenue to become a professional "nurse." Our profession is fragmented in so many ways it is killing us. We have to shed our victim and powerless mentality.

    Come on people!! You see in this thread how one hospital responded when threatened by government authority of losing some serious revenue-generating services. This is an example of what I am saying--$$$$ talks, it is what they understand. We have the power to get the change we seek. We have to unite into a single voice and use our power to get laws changed that will elevate nursing to a professional status.

    Let's bombard the American Nurses Association with emails, phone calls, etc., let's ALL join the ANA and CHANGE IT TO REFLECT NURSING ISSUES that are pertinent to our current situation. The ANA has some many processes and contacts in place, so much structure as an organization that would take lots of time and money to replicate, we may as well use it, just change it into an effective organization that addresses real nursing issues with real information and real power, not a bunch of fruitless position papers and fancy "no-practical-application" research studies.
  4. by   lee1
    Hospital nurses will talk again

    Published in the Home News Tribune 7/26/03
    NEW BRUNSWICK: Federal mediators have called nurses and management at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital back to the table today for continuation of talks on a new labor contract.

    Hospital officials yesterday received a 10-day strike notice from staff nurses. The strike will begin at 7 a.m. Aug. 4 if there is no agreement on a new contract.

    At a meeting with the Home News Tribune editorial board yesterday, hospital officials said they are preparing for a strike and have "contingency plans in place that will ensure patient safety and quality of care."

    As part of those plans, the hospital has reached out to agencies to bring in nurses, many from out of state, to replace striking employees. The replacement nurses will be experienced, qualified and individually evaluated for competency, said Kathi Sengin, vice president of nursing and patient services.

    In addition, the hospital will launch a toll-free number on its Web site and distribute cards to visitors and patients to explain the situation and keep them informed, said spokesman John Patella.

    "It is not an option of choice . . . we loathe doing this," President and CEO Harvey Holzberg said about preparations to hire agency nurses.

    On Thursday, 552 out of 721 Robert Wood Johnson nurses voted to reject the hospital's revised proposal on a contract, thereby authorizing a strike. Highlights of this offer include wage increases averaging 12 percent in the first year of the contract and -- for the first time -- a monthly benefit or pension for retirees.

    "There's not any more we can do," Holzberg said, adding the hospital would be unable to add to the package "unless there were some kind of trade-off."

    The nurses' rejection vote Thursday went against the recommendation of their own 15-member negotiating committee. After months of contentious negotiations and a threatened strike, a committee majority endorsed the contract on July 17 after the hospital agreed to the demand for a defined pension plan that would provide a specific monthly benefit to retirees.

    After Thursday's vote, some registered nurses said the hospital's concession on post-retirement pension was a "good start" but that it failed to address other issues -- such as adequate wage increases in the second and third years of the contract; a medical stipend for retirees; and a 36-hour week with full-time benefits.

    Before the editorial board, hospital officials described their offer on a new nursing contract as "an incredibly generous package."

    The proposed contract raises the starting salary for a new nurse to almost $58,000, which will boost recruitment efforts, they said. It also adds three "pay steps" to the current salary schedule, at years 20, 25 and 30, which will help retain experienced nurses and recognize seniority, they added.

    The contract also proposes wage increases averaging about 12 percent for each nurse in the first year of the contract, and 5 percent in the second and third years, they noted.

    A nurse with about 14 years of experience -- the average at Robert Wood Johnson -- will earn $72,783 in the first year of the proposed contract.

    Describing his nurses as being of the "highest quality in the state," Holzberg said the package met the hospital's triple goals on the contract issue -- to recognize, retain and recruit nurses.

    "That is what we wanted to accomplish, and we believed we had accomplished it," he said. He expressed "surprise" and "shock" at the results of Thursday's vote.

    "Frankly we are very frustrated," he said. "When the negotiating committee recommends a contract and it gets rejected . . . that's a strange message. It doesn't happen very often."

    On the key issue of post-retirement pension, hospital officials noted they initially offered a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401K, but finally agreed to the union's demand for a defined benefit plan that gives retirees a specific monthly benefit.

    Joel Cantor, a professor of public policy at Rutgers University, said the national trend among employers has been toward a defined contribution plan.

    "It gives employees control over their resources," he said, adding they have discretion over investing those funds and can customize the plan to suit their own willingness to take risks.

    But this type of plan is more vulnerable to market fluctuations and entails higher risk, he said.

    Holzberg, noting "the union administers the defined benefit plan," said the hospital tried unsuccessfully to convince nurses and committee members that the benefit plan was "a mistake."

    But Lori Smith, the lead negotiator for the nurses' union, said "The plan that we negotiated for will provide a specified benefit at retirement and credit for past experience."

    She also said the raises in the second and third years of the contract were "not a significant wage increase in light of the severity of the nursing shortage."

    These shortages present "extra demands on nursing staff," Smith said. Additionally, nurses at Robert Wood Johnson, a Level One Trauma Center, see patients with a very high level of acuity, she said.

    "We're trying to get the (salary) scale up so it compensates nurses adequately," Smith said.

    Aparna Narayanan: (732) 565-7306; e-mail anarayan@thnt.com
  5. by   lee1
    Yes and what they do tell you is that the employee still has NO choice. Only 1 plan is to be offered for retirement benefits (no and/or) and still NOTHING for medical retirement

    'Final offer' to nurses adds pension options

    Published in the Home News Tribune 7/27/03
    NEW BRUNSWICK: A meeting between nurses and management of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital yesterday resulted in a modified offer on a three-year labor contract.

    At the session, which lasted from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and was held as a strike deadline looms, "there was a lot of discussion about the pension," hospital spokesman John Patella said.

    The hospital's "third and final contract offer" will give the nurses' union a choice of one of three pension plans, he said.

    These include a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401K; a defined benefit plan that gives retirees a specific monthly benefit, and a "second version of the defined benefit plan," Patella said. He was unable to provide details about the alternative version of the benefit plan.

    The choice of plan will be made by the union for its members and not by individual nurses, Patella said adding. "Both of the defined benefit plans will be administered by the union."

    Attorney Lori Smith, lead negotiator for PACE, the Professional Health Care Division of Local 300, the union that represents 1,000-plus registered nurses at Robert Wood Johnson, declined to discuss yesterday's meeting.

    She said the union will not comment until a general membership meeting on the contract issue, which is set for 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday at the Rutgers Labor Education Center in New Brunswick.

    Asked if negotiations with hospital management will follow the membership meeting, Smith replied, "We'll see where we go from there." Patella said yesterday no further session is scheduled.

    Federal mediators called the parties to negotiate yesterday after nurses on Thursday spurned their negotiating committee's recommendation and overwhelmingly voted to reject the hospital's second proposal on a new three-year labor contract.

    Highlights of that offer included wage increases averaging 12 percent in the first year of the contract and a first-ever monthly benefit or pension for retirees.

    That wage increase would have raised the salary of a nurse with about 14 years of experience -- the average at Robert Wood Johnson -- to $72,783 in the first year of the contract.

    On Friday, the hospital received a 10-day strike notice from staff nurses. Without an agreement, the strike will begin at 7 a.m. on Aug. 4.

    Hospital officials said they have geared up for a strike by contacting agencies to bring in replacement nurses, many from out of state.

    The 510-bed facility has "contingency plans in place that will ensure patient safety and quality of care," President and CEO Harvey Holzberg said Friday.

    Negotiations began in April on a new three-year labor contract for the 1,000-plus registered nurses at the hospital.

    Aparna Narayanan: (732) 565-7306; anarayan@thnt.com
  6. by   lee1
    Nurse talks accomplish tentative agreement

    Nurse talks accomplish tentative agreement

    Published in the Home News Tribune 07/31/03
    NEW BRUNSWICK: Nurses and management of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year labor contract yesterday morning after marathon negotiations.

    The hospital agreed to the nurses' demand for higher wage increases in the second year of the contract and additional benefits for nurses who work three 12-hour shifts a week.

    The negotiating committee of the nurses' union, the Professional Healthcare Division of PACE Local 300, voted by majority to support the hospital's revised offer.

    "The tentative agreement is excellent," said attorney Lori Smith, lead negotiator for the nurses' union. She added the union and committee members will recommend the package to the 1,000-plus nurses at Robert Wood Johnson.

    A ratification vote on the proposed contract is set for tomorrow. The negotiating teams have agreed to extend the 10-day strike notice by four days to Aug. 8.

    In its latest offer, the hospital proposes a $1 "market adjustment" to the hourly wages in 2004 -- a 65-cent increase from earlier offers -- in acknowledgment of a nursing shortage. The total wage increase for the second year will rise from an average of 5 percent to 7 percent.

    The market adjustment to hourly wages in 2005 declines by 10 cents from the hospital's earlier offer of 35 cents. The total wage increase for the third year will be almost 5 percent.

    The second $1 market adjustment to the hourly wages in 2003 will be applied earlier, in July instead of November. The total wage increase for the first year stays the same, averaging about 12 percent.

    In the hospital's latest offer, "there are more ways in which individuals who work (three 12-hour shifts per week) are treated as full-time employees," Smith said. It proposes treating nurses who work that shift as full time for the purposes of tuition reimbursement and seniority, in addition to the purposes of long-term disability benefits and rotation.

    Registered nurse Patricia Avila, a committee member, said she was "supporting the contract" but was disappointed by the failure to reach agreement on issues such as workplace violence.

    She added she "had hoped we could do something more" with the pension proposal, but "it didn't work out." The pension plan, which nurses describe as one of their most important issues, has been a major sticking point in negotiations.

    On July 17, the hospital agreed to the nurses' demand for a defined benefit pension plan that gives retirees a specific monthly benefit -- but removed the hospital-match component of the defined-contribution pension plan.

    Yesterday, Patricia Evans, a registered nurse, said she was "not real happy" with the hospital's new offer. She said nurses like her sought a defined-contribution plan to which the employer contributes, as well as a defined-benefit plan.

    "There was actually no change on the pension," she said. "The hospital did not budge on that."

    Nurses also failed to get "full benefits, meaning vacation, sick pay and especially medical insurance" for working three 12-hour shifts per week, she added.

    The hospital's revised offer "comes out to 55 cents more (per hour) over two years," Evans said, adding "That's what the nine hours of negotiations got us. It really was a waste of time."

    Committee member and registered nurse Karen Carey said she was "very happy" with "an excellent contract."

    Expressing hope it will be ratified, Carey said, "We didn't get all that we should, but we got all that we could."

    Robert Wood Johnson nurses have twice voted to reject the hospital's offer on a new contract, most recently last Thursday.

    The talks Tuesday between the nurses' negotiating committee and hospital management began at 9 p.m. at the Rutgers Labor Education Center. Hundreds of nurses assembled at the site at 5 p.m. the same day for a union membership meeting, and several dozens remained there until negotiations ended the next morning.

    Carey said this signaled "nurses are truly awakened to their cause."

    Yesterday, hospital spokesman John Patella acknowledged the tentative agreement but said, "We'll withhold comment till the nurses have voted."

    Aparna Narayanan732) 565-7306; e-mail anarayan@thnt.com
  7. by   lee1
    Contract passes, overwhelming YES vote for a change. More actual news tomorrow. Anyone out there reading this?????
    The other large Trauma leve I hospital in Newark as voted to go on strike now also.
  8. by   -jt
    <Anyone out there reading this?????>

    yessssss..... and its just killing me that this particular facility made so much money & paid such high salaries & perks to its CEO that it caused a newspaper to write an article calling him "the $2 Million Man" -- but it doesnt want to give a decent pension to the nurses who made it that money. And yet its willing to throw away big bucks on out-of-state "strike nurse replacements" just to stop its own nurses from getting that pension. If they have money to throw away, why not put it towards paying the pension contributions and let everybody be happy? ******* impossible.
  9. by   NRSKarenRN
    Anyone out there reading this?????
    Yes....agree with JT 100%.
    Now approaching 48th birthday, Pensions are a BIG concern as what quality of life I will have for the next 40 years of life (grandmoms lived into their 90's). First position missed by one month five year vested pension as went PT to complete BSN degree. Current employer has 401b (? number) where they match retirement savings .50cents for every dollar I contribute up to 6% of my salary AFTER 3 years of employment.

    Since most nurses ARE 45 years old PENSIONS are a big deal. What we garner for the next 20+years is what we will live on especially if SS bankrupt. If healthcare CEO"S get lifelong pensions, why shouldn't the nurses who are the backbone of hospital get pension. NO NURSES = NO HOSPITALIZED PATIENTS.
  10. by   lee1
    Thanks for the replies was beginning to think nurses do NOT care that much about their benefits and the reasons why nurses are forced to go on strike. Although we ratifies THIS agreement after 2 strike votes it still did NOT gain us Medical Retirement plans------so we still have 0 if we retire at 62 or whatever before Medicare kicks in nor do we have anything to help with Medicare. The NEXT big fight-------can't believe we really have to fight so hard. We had even been reduced to asking for $500/yr as a stipend for retirees to help pay their COBRA costs trying to get it into the contact to at least build on. Also, we had asked to receive our BANKED sick time which is lost on leaving or retiring and never given back unless you have just taken every sick time day you have banked. They said NO to that idea also.
  11. by   lee1
    Hospital nurses settle

    Published in the Home News Tribune 8/02/03
    460-238 vote on pact ends walkout threat

    NEW BRUNSWICK: Nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital last night ratified a new three-year labor contract, ending months of contentious negotiations and the threat of a nursing strike at the 510-bed facility.

    By a 460-238 vote, nurses accepted the hospital's final offer -- which includes wage increases averaging 12 percent in the first year, 7 percent in the second and almost 5 percent in the third; as well as a first-ever benefit pension plan that gives retirees a specific monthly benefit.

    Highlighting these two achievements, attorney Lori Smith, lead negotiator for the Professional Health Care Division of PACE Local 300, which represents the 1,000-plus nurses of Robert Wood Johnson, described the new contract as a success.

    "We're just thrilled," she said. "I think it's a wonderful contract for the nurses."

    Hospital spokesman John Patella likewise welcomed the result of the ratification vote.

    "We're glad the issue has been finally resolved," he said. "Both sides worked very hard to get to this point. It was a long process, and now it's time to move on."

    Since the old contract expired on June 30, nurses at Robert Wood Johnson have twice voted to reject contract offers and authorize a strike, on July 10 and July 24. In the absence of an agreement, a nurses' walk-out could have begun on Aug. 8. The hospital last witnessed a nursing strike in 1977.

    On Wednesday, the negotiating teams reached a tentative agreement on a new contract after the hospital agreed to higher wages in the second year of the contract and additional benefits for nurses who work three 12-hour shifts a week.

    Registered nurse Karen Carey, a negotiating committee member, said yesterday the new contract was "some progress" but "did not come near compensating us what we are worth."

    She cited "salary compensation and the pension" as areas of progress. But the nurses lost the hospital-match component of the defined contribution pension plan, and the contract failed to adjust "nonfinancial pieces," Carey said.

    These "nonfinancial" issues include workplace violence against nurses and the "floating" or shifting of experienced nurses to unfamiliar units, Carey explained.

    Registered nurse Jim Reardon, another committee member, was more critical of the settlement. Of the four priorities -- adequate second- and third-year wage increases; a defined benefit pension plan combined with a defined contribution plan that includes a hospital-match component; a medical stipend for retirees; and three 12-hour shifts per week with full-time benefits -- none was completely and satisfactorily resolved, he said.

    "It fell short," Reardon said. "We did not get one core issue addressed."

    Smith said issues such as an enhanced defined contribution plan and weekend differentials "will make their way back to the table" in future contract talks. She said she expected this contract would benefit nurses at other hospitals, such as University Hospital in Newark, who are in their own contract negotiations.

    "It is setting a high standard," she said. "I know other hospitals were looking to this contract to see where it ended up."

    Aparna Narayanan: (732) 565-7306; anarayan@thnt.com
  12. by   lee1
    Nurses come to bargaining table with clout

    Published in the Home News Tribune 8/02/03


    TRENTON -- With the shortage of hospital nurses giving them more clout at the bargaining table, contract negotiations have been getting more contentious as nurses push harder for more staff and better working conditions, changes they say are needed to reduce burnout and medical errors.

    While still rare, strikes have been on the rise, with at least nine around the country already this year.

    Since June 24, a total of about 3,000 registered nurses at University Hospital in Newark, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and three Virtua Health hospitals -- in Voorhees, Marlton and Berlin -- have voted to authorize their negotiators to call a strike as contract talks dragged. None have walked out, though.

    And union organizing activity is increasing nationwide, as unions in health care and other fields persuade nurses at nonunion hospitals to vote for representation.

    Since late May, several hundred RNs at Christ Hospital in Jersey City and Southern Ocean County Hospital in Manahawkin voted to join Health Professionals and Allied Employees, New Jersey's largest health-care union.

    "This has been building. (Nurses) are at a breaking point," said HPAE president Ann Twomey, whose union represents about 8,000 RNs and 2,000 other health workers at 15 hospitals and three nursing homes. "Nurses all over the state are saying, 'We're in this fight to save the health-care industry and improve our profession.' "

    RNs at three New Jersey hospitals voted for union representation between 2001 and 2002, according to Ron Czajkowski, spokesman for the New Jersey Hospital Association. About one-third of New Jersey hospitals now have unionized RNs.

    "There's heightened activity. There's no doubt," he said.

    Labor officials and union members say the primary contract issue generally is staffing -- how many RNs there are to care for increasingly sick patients, whether they get shifted to unfamiliar units, a practice called floating, and how much support staff they have. Finances are always an issue, though, from wages to pension plans and health insurance copayments.

    In both areas, the hospitals are often between a rock and a hard place. Many are losing money, and it's difficult to hire more RNs when 15 percent of New Jersey hospital nurse positions already are vacant. That's because the country is short about 125,000 nurses for the 2 million current jobs; the federal government estimates the shortage will hit 800,000 by 2020 as the aging population needs more care and fewer people enter the profession.

    In the most contentious New Jersey negotiations, Robert Wood Johnson nurses since July 10 have twice voted to reject contract offers, authorize a strike and give the hospital the required 10-day notice of when a strike could start. The hospital, a top-level trauma center, has added a new pension plan and slightly improved its wage offer since the first contract proposal, said hospital spokesman John Patella. The nurses yesterday voted to approve the latest offer.

    About 800 RNs at University Hospital authorized a strike on Wednesday -- despite being state employees legally barred from striking. The two sides are still negotiating, so the nurses' union, HPAE, hasn't issued a 10-day strike notice.

    Twomey, the HPAE president, said strike authorization votes now are fairly routine.

    "In the past, the nurses were saying, 'We don't want to go on strike.' Now they're saying, 'We will strike.' "

    At Virtua, nurses ratified a final contract offer on July 9 that gives nurses limited say on staffing levels, tight restrictions on mandatory overtime, bigger contributions to their pension plan and annual raises of 4 1/2 percent to 5 percent, said Virginia Treacy, executive director of JNESO, the union the nurses elected to represent them in April 1996.

    Nearby at Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol, Pa., just north of Philadelphia, about 200 registered nurses voted to authorize a strike on June 19, then ratified an improved contract on June 30. In between, they got new limits on floating, a slightly higher wage increase and better health insurance benefits, said Jerry Silberman, a staff representative at their union, Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals.

    "I think that nurses are negotiating from a position of greater strength because of the nursing shortage," conceded hospital spokesman Bob Harris, who would not discuss the issues.

    copyright 2003 The Associated Press
  13. by   OC_An Khe
    Yes pensions and associated benefits are becoming more recognized by Nurses as being important. Hopefully this will be a unifying issue that all nurses can ratify around.
    A word on defined benefit versus defined contribution plans. Both have advantages and disadvantages and neither is better by definition. Ideally we should negotiate participation in both type of plans.