Morton Hospital RNs and Health Professionals Reach Tentative Agreement Averting a Strike Vote
Three-Year Pact Includes Strong Limits on Mandatory Overtime, Protection of Defined Benefit Pension Plan and a 4 - 6 % Pay Increase
TAUNTON, MA – After six months and 22 negotiating sessions, the registered nurses and health professionals of Morton Hospital reached a tentative agreement Tuesday, April 20 on a new three-year contract, averting the need for a strike vote which was scheduled for April 28. The pact includes strong language to limit mandatory overtime, protection of the defined benefit pension plan, a salary increase to allow Morton’s professional staff to keep pace with other hospitals in the market and pay parity for Morton’s home care nurses.
“We are thrilled to have achieved this settlement, which is a victory for all of us -- nurses, health professionals, management, and most important of all, our patients, who will benefit from nurses having safer practice conditions,” said Joyce Wilkins, RN, chair of the nurse’s local bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “This agreement also maintains a benefits package that will allow this hospital to continue to recruit and retain the excellent professional staff our community expects and deserves.”
Highlights of the agreement, which will run from Jan. 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2012 include:
- Mandatory Overtime Protections: including a written commitment to keep mandatory overtime to a minimum, a provision that no nurse or health professional will be required to work beyond 12 hours, and that no nurse or health professional can be mandated to work mandatory overtime more than two times each quarter. In support of this commitment, the hospital is already increasing contingency staff positions to provide staffing support to help alleviate this problem.
- Pension Protection: maintains the current defined pension benefit with no changes. In recognition of the tenuous economic climate, the nurse and health professionals have agreed to form a joint committee with management to evaluate the pension issue. In addition, the contract could be reopened in 2011 to evaluate the pension benefit based on the hospital’s financial status. Any changes to the pension will need to be negotiated and approved by the bargaining unit members.
- Wage Increases: including 1% across the board retroactive to Jan 1, 2010, 1% on July 1, 2010; 1% on Jan. 1, 2011, with a 2% increase to the top step of the pay scale making it a full 4% step and another 1% across the board raise on July 1, 2011. Also, home care nurses will be granted parity with other nurses in the bargaining unit and “on call” pay will be increased from $4.25 per hour to $5 on July 1, 2010. The contract also includes a reopener for salary, differentials, health insurance and pension benefits in Jan. 2012.
- Health Insurance: the nurses and health care professionals agreed to discontinue a grandfathering provision granting nurses hired before 1998 to pay a lower health insurance premium contribution, meaning all employees will now pay 20-30 percent (20 percent full-time 32-40 hrs., 30 percent part-time) of their health insurance premium. The union also agreed to modest increases in co-pays for office visits for primary care, specialist and ED visits.
The 400 nurses and health professionals, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, began negotiations for a new contract on October 15, 2009. A total of 22 sessions were held, with the last eight sessions held with a Federal mediator. The members’ existing contract expired on Jan. 1, 2010. A vote to ratify the new contract will be held on May 4.