Awards for longevity, new insurance benefits, and pioneering language specific tohealth and safety seen as biggest successes
HOLYOKE, Mass. — Registered nurses (RNs) represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) at Holyoke-based Providence Behavioral Health Hospital recently voted to ratify a new three-year contract—one that includes language specific to longevity compensation, as well as groundbreaking health and safety language. The pact also grants the RNs a 7 percent, across-the-board raise in both the first and second years of the contract, followed by an 8 percent increase in the contract’s final year.
According to Diane Michael, RN and co-chairperson of Providence’s MNA bargaining unit, the ratified contract is being hailed as a success by the hospital’s RNs. “This contract was negotiated in just six sessions,” said Michael, “and the end result includes some really exciting language that provides Providence’s dedicated and hardworking RNs with the benefits they deserve.”
The contract language includes:
- A 3 percent increase in the bargaining unit’s entire salary scale (in addition to the across-the-board enhancements outlined above) due to the restructuring of the scale’s steps; as a result, many RNs will begin this contract year with a 10 percent salary increase.
- A longevity bonus that awards RNs who have been in the hospital network for 20 years or more with an annual, lump-sum award of $10 for each year worked.
- Improved shift differentials, including an additional $4 per hour for RNs working the 11:15 p.m. to 7:15 a.m. shift and an additional $2 per hour for RNs working the weekend shift. Shift differentials will increase at a rate of $0.50 per hour in the last two years of the contract.
- The introduction of “preceptor pay.” RNs who take on the role of mentoring and teaching new/returning nurses will be compensated for their expanded responsibilities and their time.
- The removal of all latex gloves in order to protect workers and patients who suffer from latex allergies.
- A $100,000 HIV insurance policy that is available at no cost to any RN who contracts the virus as the result of a work-related exposure.
- Groundbreaking health and safety language that clearly defines workplace violence and formalizes the hospital’s continued commitment to identifying, intervening and following-up on all instances of workplace violence.
For Denny Glidden, an RN in Providence’s methadone clinic and co-chairperson of her bargaining unit, the salary expansions under the new contract are being praised by all of her fellow MNA members. “The across-the-board increases and the restructuring of the pay scale mean that we can now offer extremely competitive salaries to nurses who are considering joining us at Providence—as well as retain the highly skilled RNs who have long been providing best-in-class care to patients in need of behavioral health programs,” said Glidden.
In addition to the salary language, the health and safety language in the new contract is also considered a significant success—particularly from the perspective of the MNA’s own health and safety department. “This contract works to protect the lives of all the nurses who are employed at Providence Hospital,” said the MNA’s Evie Bain, MEd, RN and COHN-S. “Additionally, it is groundbreaking for nurses and patients everywhere who suffer from latex allergies.”
Exposure to (natural rubber) latex has disabled thousands of nurses in recent years. Eliminating latex gloves—and substituting them with gloves made of materials that surpass latex in terms protective qualities—has been shown to protect both nurses and patients. “With this language in place, nurses who’ve become latex allergic could return to work in a place that is free of the hazard that has affected their lives and their ability to work,” said Bain.
Approximately 62 registered nurses comprise the MNA bargaining unit at Providence, and according to Andrea Fox—the chief negotiator for the hospital’s unionized RNs—the level of involvement that was seen from members during this contract negotiation was notable. “The members at this hospital have always been very committed to working hard for a fair contract, but the involvement throughout this six-session negotiation was truly impressive,” said Fox. “RNs from every department and every unit followed the progress of this contract closely, and more the three quarters of the members turned out to vote. The result: an excellent contract that is competitive.”
Providence Behavioral Health Hospital is a Holyoke-based facility that offers patients from across Massachusetts access to a wide range of mental health and behavioral health programs. Services include in-patient, out-patient and residency treatment programs in child/adolescent psychiatry; adult psychiatry; older adult psychiatry; substance abuse treatment; and a methadone maintenance treatment program.