I am writing about our experience at bargaining with HealthEast on April 20, 2010. The day started out beautifully with over 50 RNs showing up at the Bethesda lobby to support their bargaining team and to welcome management as they arrived for today’s session. We are confident that management got the message that RNs are unhappy about what HealthEast is trying to do to our profession.
The management team seemed uneasy as they tried to explain their proposal to us today. Maybe it is because they don’t believe in what they are being told to do, or maybe it’s because over 50 registered nurses welcomed them as we started the day?
At the table today management tried to explain their proposals that take away benefits in our contract. They explained to us that it was unfair for RNs to have holidays, sick time, and vacation be counted as hours worked for overtime purposes. If they think it’s unfair, why did they agree to it in the first place? We told them we were not interested in their proposal at this time.
They then tried to explain to us why eliminating provisions that allow Nurses to retire at 55 and remain on COBRA until Medicare eligible was the right thing to do. We told them that we believed they were trying to trap nurses in the profession in order to deal with the impending nurse shortage instead of creating incentives to keep nurses and attract new people to the profession. We all know there is going to be a huge nursing shortage in the next 5 years, why don’t we figure out how to better recruit and retain nurses? We should try to fix the staffing problems and create better ratios and staff our floors better so nurses don’t get burned out. All HealthEast seems to want to do is save money in the short term. We need long term strategies to deal with the impending staffing crisis.
After that management explained a few more of the takeaway proposals and we told them we were not interested in those either. They keep telling us that they need to be more flexible and that we need to be more flexible. How flexible do they think we are? We already do as much as we can, and then some, because they refuse to improve staffing. We explained to them that our proposals put patient safety first and that we were working to improve our profession. Not once have they been able to explain how one of their proposals improves the profession of nursing and the quality of patient care.
We presented our proposals on union release time, wages and neutrality. On union release time we are requesting that the employer grant leave to union members to do union work if it does not cause an undue hardship on the employer. We don’t understand why they have a problem with this. On neutrality we are asking that HealthEast remain neutral when Woodwinds Nurses organize their union into MNA. On wages we explained our initial proposal of 4.5% each year for three years. We explained that with an impending nurse shortage it makes sense to create incentives for new nurses to enter the profession. We also explained, and they agreed, that HealthEast turned a profit last year and Tim Hanson the CEO of HealthEast and the mangers all got a bonuses last year so it was only fair that RNs received a moderate pay increase.
Our next bargaining session is next Tuesday April 27. We will keep you updated as we move forward in our campaign to improve our profession and the safety of our patients. Don’t forget to authorize the informational picket. We will be the cafeteria at all the HealthEast hospitals this Friday.
Bargaining Team, MNA