Tufts, St. Vincent RNs win staffing language, ratify contracts and avoid strikes
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
June/July 2011 Edition
|Picket Signs from St. Vincent and Tufts|
The registered nurses at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester both recently cast overwhelming votes in favor of ratifying their tentative agreements—Tufts for an 18-month contract and St. Vincent for a three-year contract. Key language included in both contracts includes language specific to staffing improvements, which is essential to keeping patients safe during their hospital visits.
“We are proud of our agreement and what it will mean for the patients we care for every day,” said Barbara Tiller, RN and co-chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit. “Our nurses made a courageous stand for safe staffing and working conditions, and the hospital responded with improvements that we believe will enhance our ability to deliver the care our patients expect and deserve.”
“This is a great victory for nurses and this community,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN and co-chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit at St. Vincent. “It was a long process but ultimately we were able to reach an agreement that will allow the nurses of this hospital to provide high quality patient care. The credit goes to our members. Our nurses came together to stand up for what they believed. It was the strength and unity of our union that has allowed us to push forward to such a successful settlement. This is a win for all parties, and the biggest winners will be our patients.”
Highlights from Tufts
The 18-month agreement runs from May 18, 2011 to Nov. 19, 2012. The pact includes the following key provisions:
Increased staffing with limits on nurses’ patient assignments in a number of areas. The hospital has agreed to limit patient assignments for nurses working on the medical-surgical floors to six patients on the night shift, and to no more than two patients in the intensive care units. The hospital has also agreed to language in the contract that assures they will not move to a six patient assignment for medical-surgical nurses on the day and evening shifts for the life of the agreement. The hospital has also agreed to convert a number of temporary travel nurses’ positions to core staff, which will further improve care on a number of units and has increased positions in its float pool, which will provide nursing support to overburdened units.
The addition of charge nurses with limited assignments to a number of the hospital’s busiest medical surgical floors on day and evening shifts. These nurses will supplement core staffing on these units to coordinate the flow of patients in and out of the units, while also providing support to nurses caring for patients with complex needs.
Strict limits on mandatory overtime. The hospital has agreed to limit significantly the use of mandatory overtime as a staffing mechanism, allowing nurses to refuse forced overtime if they are too ill to provide safe patient care. No nurse will be required to work more than 16 hours in a single shift, and cannot be assigned more than 12 hours of mandatory overtime in a calendar quarter. The hospital has also agreed to post full schedules to minimize the need for mandatory overtime.
Protection from inappropriate floating. The pact provides protections for nurses who are asked to float to other units, with guarantees that they will receive appropriate orientation and are competent to practice in those areas.
Wage increase. The pact includes a 2 percent across-the-board wage increase for all nurses upon ratification.
Highlights from St. Vincent
The three-year agreement, which includes industry-leading, contractually enforceable RN-to-patient ratios, will transform the hospital from being one of the worst staffed hospitals in the state to one of the best. It runs from Jan.1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2012. The pact includes the following key provisions:
Improvements to contractually guaranteed RN-to-patient ratios on all the hospital’s medical-surgical and telemetry floors. Where the nurses’ contract previously allowed patient assignments of up to six on days and evenings and up to seven patients on nights, the new contract sets a safe limit of four to five patients per nurse on days and evenings and no more than five patients on the night shift. The nurses also achieved improved RN-to-patient ratios in the hospital’s maternity unit, which is in line with established national standards for maternity care.
The addition of a “resource nurse” with a limited two-patient assignment to all medical-surgical and telemetry floors on day and evening shifts. These nurses will supplement core staffing on these units to coordinate the flow of patients in and out of the units, while also providing support to nurses caring for patients with complex needs.
A guarantee that all critical care patients will receive the accepted standard of care no matter where they are in the hospital. As the hospital is planning to close eight to nine intensive care unit beds, which may result in critically ill patients waiting for an ICU bed, the parties agreed to language which assures those patients will receive the same level of nursing care no matter where they are in the hospital.
A modest wage increase. The pact includes a 1 percent across the board increase effective Jan. 1, 2011, and an additional 1 percent across the board increase effective Jan. 1, 2012, along with a new 2 percent step at the top of the salary scale effective upon ratification.
Both ratification votes came after difficult and protracted negotiations, with the nurses at St. Vincent negotiating with Vanguard management for more than 40 sessions and the Tufts nurses for 19 sessions. In reaching their tentative agreements, both bargaining units averted strikes that were set to begin on May 6, National Nurses Day.