WORCESTER, MA – After a marathon 24-hour mediation session, the registered nurses of the UMass Medical Center’s University campus reached a tentative agreement with management, ending a strike that began at 6 a.m. today and ended at 11 a.m. The nurses’ were successful in fighting off a number of contract concessions sought by management, with the two key issues being the protection of the nurses’ defined benefit pension plan and preservation of affordable health care benefits for both part-time and full time nurses.
“In a victory for nurses and their patients, the parties reached a fair agreement that will allow this hospital to recruit and retain the staff needed to deliver quality patient care at the region’s only Level One Trauma Center,” said Kathie Logan, RN, chair of the bargaining unit. “Ultimate credit goes to our members who came together to stand up for what they believed in. 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.”
The three-year agreement runs from April 2006 to April 2009. The pact includes the following key provisions:
- Maintains the current defined benefit pension for nurses currently employed. Newly hired nurses may choose the defined benefit pension or an enhanced defined contribution plan.
- Provides a health insurance premium with an 80 – 20 cost share for both full time and part time nurses.
- Provides a 15 step salary scale with 5 percent annual step raises, as well as a cost-of-living adjustment in each year of the contract. The starting hourly wage step at the end of the contract will be $27.23 up from $24.33 with a top wage step of $55.02 up from $49.86.
- Management withdrew proposals that would have diminished nurse’s rights under new Reduction in Force language, as well language on Family and Medical Leave benefits.
The 830 nurses of the UMMC/University Campus, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, began negotiations last December. The settlement follows an historic 94% vote by the nurses to authorize the strike. More than 20 negotiating sessions have been held to date, with a federal mediator involved in the talks from early on in the process.