News & Events

New England Medical Center Nurses Ratify 21 Month Contract Contract Grants Pay Increases Ranging from 18 – 23% Depending on Years of Service

Pact Reflects Need to Increase Nurses’ Salaries to Recruit and Retain Staff in Face of Growing Nursing Shortage and Threat of Deteriorating Patient Care Due to Inadequate Staffing at Many Massachusetts Hospitals

BOSTON, Mass. —
After just three months of negotiations with hospital management over their union contract, the registered nurses of New England Medical Center last night voted to ratify a new 21-month contract that includes salary increases of between 18 and 23% depending on nurses’ years of experience. The contract also includes increases in shift differentials for nurses who work evenings and nights, provides free parking for nurses working the night shift and provides access to medical insurance benefits for nurses working as little as 20 hours per week. The contract will make the nurses of New England Medical Center (more than 1200 work at the facility) among the highest paid nurses in the Commonwealth, with nurses at the top of the salary scale earning nearly $46 per hour at the end of the contract period.

"We are pleased that management has recognized the value of its nurses and worked with us to develop a salary scale that will allow us to recruit and retain the nursing staff necessary to maintain the highest level of quality patient care," said Margie Bedard, vice chair of the nurses’ bargaining unit at NEMC. "This kind of salary for nurses is long overdue and it is what is necessary to get nurses to come to this institution, as well as to keep them here. By taking care of its nurses, this administration is taking care of the future of New England Medical Center."

According to Shelley Reever, associate director of the Massachusetts Nurses Association who represents the nurses at NEMC, the management of New England Medical Center should be praised for taking steps that every hospital should follow to address the nursing shortage and to ensure patient care.

"Not only does this hospital pay its nurses well," Reever explained, "they also have made a commitment to work with the union to ensure safe working conditions and staffing levels (nurse-to-patient ratios) that allow nurses to practice safely and competently. We applaud them for their efforts."

In recent years, there has been a growing shortage of nurses both locally and nationally driven by hospital management practices that have cut nurse staffing levels, forced nurses to care for too many patients, and led to a dramatic rise in mandatory overtime to compensate for inadequate core staffing levels. Study after study published in the last year has clearly demonstrated that poor staffing levels are harming patients and that nurses are leaving the profession in droves due to poor staffing levels. Surveys of nurses have demonstrated that improvements in working conditions and dramatic increases in salaries are needed to alleviate the growing crisis.

The nurses’ contract is a 21-month agreement that will expire on September 30, 2003. For nurses at the top of the salary scale, the pact calls for an across the board 8 percent salary increase, with two 5 percent steps added to the salary scale over the life of the contract (18% total increase). All other nurses will receive an 8 % across the board salary increase, with three 5 % salary increases over the life of the contract (23% total increase).

"A contract settlement is not just about salary, it also demonstrates the commitment of NEMC to recruit and retain the best nurses to care for our critically ill patients," said Charles Schormann, chairperson for the NEMC local bargaining unit. "I hope that this will send a message that the nursing profession is alive and is a viable careen choice."