Palomar-Pomerado RNs See Record Gains in First Agreement


    Palomar-Pomerado RNs See Record Gains in First Agreement
    30% Pay Boost, New Pension Plan, Staffing Improvements
    Registered Nurses at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido and Pomerado Hospital in Poway in northern San Diego County have achieved landmark improvements in their first ever collective bargaining agreement, the California Nurses Association reported today.

    Highlights of the pact include average pay increases of 30% over three years - with an immediate average salary boost of 22% - plus additional annual pay based on RN experience, a new defined benefit pension plan, and numerous staffing gains, such as a tight ban on the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime.

    The agreement, affecting 725 RNs in the Palomar Pomerado Health, California's largest district hospital, should help raise standards for RNs and patients throughout Southern California, as well as assisting PPH retaining experienced RNs and recruiting new nurses, said CNA.

    With the agreement Palomar Pomerado RNs will now be the highest paid registered nurses in San Diego County, with experienced RNs earning up to $36.80 per hour, and advanced clinical RNs paid up to $37.91, said CNA.

    A tentative settlement was reached by hospital officials and nurse negotiators on Friday. It must still be ratified by the RNs who will vote on the package at general membership meetings this Wednesday and Thursday, and by the PPH Board.

    "May 16th was the culmination of more than a year of organizing and bargaining effort. I'm thrilled with the gains we were able to achieve in our first contract," said Donna Johnson, an Emergency Room RN at Palomar.

    "I think the majority of the nurses will be very pleased with an average increase of 22% in their wage this year, no increase in their health care premium for 2004 and an enhanced pension plan," said Johnson.

    CNA's Southern California director David Johnson called the contract "a breakthrough agreement. "With the new landmark pay structure, a new first class defined benefit pension plan, and a dramatically enhanced voice for bedside RNs in staffing decisions, CNA RNs at PPH have set a new standard in the area."

    "We are extremely pleased with the settlement, and congratulate PPH management for their willingness to listen to the nurses and amicably resolve key issues," said Johnson. "With this contract, PPH has now wisely positioned itself as a very attractive choice for RNs in San Diego County. CNA is leading the way to a bright future for San Diego RNs, who have been sorely underpaid for too long, despite their nursing excellence."

    In addition to the huge pay improvements, settlement terms include:
    o A commitment to seek guarantee pension benefits through the California Public Employee Retirement System.
    o A strong 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.
    o Replacing the subjective "merit" pay system with guaranteed pay steps, based on years of RN experience in or outside the U.S. Experienced RNs will receive larger pay step increases.
    o Restrictions on unsafe floating, the practice of requiring RNs to work in clinical areas where they do not have specialty expertise or orientation. For the first time, senior RNs (with more than 18 years) will not have to float.
    o A stronger voice for RNs on staffing concerns with arbitration for resolution of disputes.
    PPH officials and CNA have been in talks on the first contract since last year. CNA won representation rights for the Palomar and Pomerado RNs last June.

    First contract talks for other Palomar-Pomerado employees represented by CNA's sister union, the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union (CHEU) are continuing, and negotiators expect to make strong gains in that agreement as well. CHEU represents some 1,600 service and non-RN professional and technical employees in the district.
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