02/12/2003 RNs take labor fight to the streets
By Denise Allabaugh , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer
Wilkes-Barre General Hospital striking registered nurses distributed fliers Tuesday on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, asking the community to hold Wyoming Valley Health Care System's board of directors "accountable" for what is going on at the hospital.
02/13/2003 Dr. Host critical of nurses targeting board members
By Lisa Napersky , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer
Wyoming Valley Health Care System President and CEO Dr. William Host said he is disappointed that striking registered nurses are pressuring hospital board members to end the work stoppage.
02/15/2003 Nurses going back to work
By Denise Allabaugh , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer
Wilkes-Barre General Hospital registered nurses will return to work Wednesday after a 16-day strike.
On Friday, nurses approved a three-year agreement by a 259 to 43 vote.
The agreement has salary improvements. Nurses and Wyoming Valley Health Care System officials also agreed that nurses might refuse mandatory overtime if they are fatigued or if personal circumstances make staying difficult.
As Sandy Solovey, president of the Wyoming Valley Nurses Association, read the vote at the Waterfront in Plains Township, nurses applauded and hugged. Many called the contract a victory.
"We need to go back for our patients," Marci Wayman, a registered nurse who worked in cardiac rehabilitation for 21 years, commented after voting. "Nurses are very caring people. This made us stronger. This will not break our union."
Nurses have been on strike since Jan. 30. Both WVHCS officials and nurses worked until 4:30 a.m. Friday to reach an agreement.
"We are absolutely confident that we will eliminate mandatory overtime and improve staffing at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital because of our new contract," Solovey said. "We can make a change. We can make a difference. The fight has just begun."
Through the new agreement, nurses will start at $19 an hour and top off at $23.20 an hour after 25 years of service.
Solovey noted that most steps in the salary scale are equal or above the salaries at Mercy Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, the highest paid registered nurses in the area.
*The agreement provides an average wage increase in the first year of eight-percent, with the average wage increase over the three years set at approximately 16-percent. The most senior nurses will receive first year increases of 9.5 percent.
*A "Clinical Practices Council," which will allow the nurses to continue to meet with management to address the nurses' concerns at the hospital, also was created.
*Solovey said the first items on the agenda will be mandatory overtime and staffing. Per diem and agency nurses will fill overtime hours, she said.
"A nurse will be able to refuse overtime if she is sick, tired or has an emergency. This really has been an accomplishment," Solovey said. "We are going to hold them accountable."
Registered nurse Angela Hoolick agreed, saying, "I'm so happy that the hospital agreed to create the Clinical Practices Council.
"Negotiations will not end our dialogue with the hospital," Hoolick added. "I am looking forward to having a voice in the decision-making for years to come."
*Other highlights of the agreement include an increase in the number of sick days, and a cap on the cost of health insurance.
"We are proud of the stand that we've taken with issues like staffing and mandatory overtime," Solovey said. "We believe that this new agreement will help us to improve the conditions for nurses and patients at our hospital. We look forward to getting back to the hospital, and caring for our community."
Dr. William Host, WVHCS president and CEO, concurred, "This is a large victory for everybody."
U.S. Nursing of Denver, Colo. will continue to provide replacement nurses until Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7 a.m. On Tuesday, he said hospital officials would work with the nurses on the details of the agreement.
"We will work together to make sure it goes smoothly," Dr. Host said.
Dr. Host estimated that the agreement would cost the hospital more than $1 million.
"We will have to look around feverishly to come up with the money that we promised," Dr. Host said. "We don't have all of it accounted for, but we'll find it."
Some part-time employees who walked out of negotiations at the Waterfront were not happy with the contract. They complained there was no change in the cost they were paying toward health insurance.
Professional Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, the parent organization of Wyoming Valley Nurses Association, has filed unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of two licensed practical nurses who were fired during the strike.
LPNs are not represented by a union and are continuing to work while the registered nurses strike.
Last year, 102 LPNs voted in favor of unionizing under PASNAP, while 108 voted against unionization. Three other employees who were fired reportedly are represented by District 1199P/SEIU.
Bill Cruice, PASNAP director, charged that the LPNs were disciplined for their "attitude" toward replacement nurses of U.S. Nursing and not as a result of their actual job performance.
Reportedly, one LPN was fired because she told a replacement nurse that she was giving an IV the wrong way. Another LPN terminated reportedly was employed by Wilkes-Barre General Hospital for more than 20 years.
Dr. Host believes this grievance will get "adjudicated."
Feb 27, '03
Whether the Poconos is less expensive to live in than Crozer-Chester doesnt even matter. Its not the dollar amount so much as the percentage increase with experience. In Crozer-Chester, the RN with 25 years experience will be earning just fourteen dollars an hour more than a new RN. But even worse, in the Poconos, the RN with 25 years experience will only be earning FOUR dollars an hour more than a new grad.
That really isnt sending a good message to experienced nurses & may not be very successful in recruiting them, but since the staff RNs were able to get most of their other important items, including limits on mandatory ot, healthcare costs, an increase in sick time and a practice council where they will have a stronger voice in decision making, they are probably willing to live with those salaries for now & will address it with the next contract.
Last edit by -jt on Feb 27, '03