Three-year pact includes 13 – 23% pay hike
BROCKTON – The registered nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association at Brockton Hospital voted yesterday to ratify a new three-year contract that provides wage increases of 13-23 percent, establishes a new tuition reimbursement benefit for nurses, and calls for the implementation of a commitment for per diem nurses to help improve staffing on the weekend and night shifts. The final vote tally was 174 – 14 in favor of the agreement.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that will provide a competitive pay scale with other area hospitals, which is an important step towards stemming the loss of nurses from this facility, while also providing us with the ability to recruit new nurses into this hospital,” said Kathy Metzger, RN, an operating room nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit. “However, a fair salary is but one aspect of the work environment at Brockton Hospital and we are looking to our CEO and senior management at this hospital to begin to work with us in an effort to change what we believe to be a toxic management culture and, too often, a dangerous work environment for both nurses and patients. Many of the nurses at this hospital have worked here for years. For many, this is their community hospital; we have a vested professional and personal interest in seeing that it is the best hospital it can be.”
The three-year agreement runs from Jan. 1, 2006 to Dec. 31, 2008. The pact includes the following key provisions:
- Salary Increase – Provides a 10 percent salary increase across the board (5 percent retroactive for 2006; 5 percent in 2007). Provides additional 0.75% to 1.5% percent adjustments to the salary scale in 2007 and 2008, while adding two new steps to the top of the salary scale (one at 4.5% in 2007, and one at 4.5 percent in 2008), which means nurses’ pay will increase between 13 and 23 percent over the life of the agreement depending on years of service. The starting hourly wage at the end of the contract will be $25.60 up from $22.50 with a top wage step of $47.96 up from $39.01.
- Tuition Reimbursement – Establishes a tuition reimbursement benefit for the nurses of up to $2,500 per year for any nurse who wishes to seek additional education related to his or her professional practice.
- Increased Per Diem Commitments to Improve Off-Shift Staffing – The contract includes an agreement by the hospital to increase the utilization of per diem nurses to augment the staffing on the weekend and night shifts, where staffing levels are particularly low.
- Protection of Nurses Prescription Drug Benefits – the union was able to prevent a proposed change in the nurses’ prescription drug benefit, whereby nurses would have been forced to utilize a more costly and restrictive hospital-based pharmacy program. The nurses will retain the right to their current benefit, with the opportunity to opt into the hospital-based program if they choose to do so.
The nurses were unsuccessful in convincing the hospital to adopt contract language to require the administration to implement a plan to prevent and respond to a growing problem of workplace violence and a dramatic increase in assaults against nurses.
According to Metzger, obtaining these protections would have taken a strike by the nurses, and the negotiating committee didn’t believe a strike at this time was in the best interests of the hospital or the community.
“We have notified management that we are ready and willing to sit down with them, to work together to address our concerns and to foster a positive work environment and corporate culture that is not only attractive to the nurses, but all employees, physicians and patients who are suffering under current management practices.”
The nurses, according to Metzger, will also seek remedies for the workplace violence issue through regulatory bodies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as through support for pending legislation on Beacon Hill that would require all hospitals to have a plan in place and policies to prevent and respond to workplace violence.
The 353 nurses of Brockton Hospital began negotiations on the new contract on December 14, 2005, with a tentative agreement reached on January 24, 2007.