Pact Includes Landmark Language to Protect Nurses’ Union Rights and Newly Licensed Nurses; Includes Wage Hike to Make BWH Nurses the Highest Paid in State
BOSTON, MA—After a 14-hour negotiating session, the registered nurses of the Brigham & Women’s Hospital (BWH) reached a tentative agreement with management last night, averting a strike that was set to begin on Nov. 29. The two-year pact includes a number of provisions nurses sought to increase the recruitment and retention of staff to ensure safe patient care, including landmark contract language to protect newly licensed nurses and the union rights of nurses. It also includes pay increases that will make the BWH nurses among the highest paid nurses in the state.
“We are proud of this agreement as it is the result of our membership’s willingness to take a stand for their patients and their profession,” said Barbara Norton, RN, chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit. “The nurses spoke and the hospital was forced to finally listen to us. As a result, nurses are assured that they will continue to have the legal right to advocate for their patients, our new nurses will not be forced to practice beyond their level of experience, and this hospital will have a pay scale to compete for the best nursing talent to provide the excellent care the Brigham has long been known for. We hope management continues to listen to its nurses and uses this agreement as a foundation for much needed improvements in staffing, which was always the ultimate goal of these negotiations.”
The two-year agreement runs from Oct. 2006 to Oct. 2008. The pact includes the following key provisions:
- Protection of Union Rights—The nurses won contract language that protects union rights for nurses at the facility and their ability to advocate for patients. The language, the first of its kind in New England, prevents the hospital from exploiting a recent controversial ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, which found that charge nurses (nurses who oversee the flow of patients on a floor) or nurses who perform charge duties may be classified as supervisors, and are thereby ineligible for union membership. The new language clearly recognizes the union rights of all nurses in the union.
- Protecting Newly Licensed Nurses—The nurse won landmark restrictions on the responsibilities of newly licensed and newly hired nurses, requiring that nurses have at least 18 months experience before being asked to take on additional responsibilities such as being placed in charge of a patient unit, or to be asked to precept another nurse.
- Industry-leading Wages—The new contract includes across the board pay increases of 3% per year for each year of the contract, with a new 5% step at the top of the salary scale in the first year of the contract while also increasing the starting pay for nurses by 5 percent. As a result, at the end of the agreement nurses’ pay will range from $29.31 per hour at the bottom of the pay scale up to $60.98 an hour at the top, which will make the nurses the highest paid nurses in the state.
- Protection of Sick Time Benefits—The hospital removed a number of proposals to restrict nurses’ sick time benefits.
The 2,700 nurses of BWH, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, began negotiations on July 13, 2006 with a total of 11 negotiating sessions held to date. The settlement follows an historic 95% vote last week by nurses to authorize a strike, the largest nurses’ strike vote in the state’s history.