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Tufts Medical Center RNs Reach Tentative Agreement Averting a Strike

Pact Provides Nurses with Staffing Improvements, Limits on Patient Assignments in Key Areas, and Strict Limits on the Use of Mandatory Overtime as a Staffing Tool

BOSTON, MA — After a 15 -hour negotiating session, the registered nurses of Tufts Medical Center have reached a tentative agreement with management, averting a strike that was set to begin today. The 18-month pact includes a number of staffing improvements sought by the nurses to improve patient care at the facility.

“We are proud of this agreement and what it will mean for the patients we care for every day,” said Barbara Tiller, RN, co-chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit. “Our nurses made a courageous stand for safe staffing and working conditions, and the hospital finally responded with improvements that we believe will enhance our ability to deliver the care our patients expect and deserve.”

The 18-month agreement runs from May 18, 2011 to Nov.19, 2012. The pact includes the following key provisions:

  • Increased staffing with limits on nurses’ patient assignments in a number of areas – the hospital has agreed to limit patient assignments for nurses working on the medical-surgical floors to six patients on the night shift, and to no more than two patients in the intensive care units. The hospital has also agreed to language in the contract that assures they will not move to a six patient assignment for medical-surgical nurses on the day and evening shifts for the life of the agreement. The hospital has also agreed to convert a number of temporary travel nurses positions to core staff, which will further improve care on a number of units and has increased positions in its float pool, which will provide nursing support to overburdened units.
  • The addition of charge nurses with limited assignments to a number of the hospital’s busiest medical surgical floors on day and evening shifts – These nurses will supplement core staffing on these units, to coordinate the flow of patients in and out of the units, while also providing support to nurses caring for patients with complex needs.
  • Strict limits on mandatory overtime – the hospital has agreed to significantly limit the use of mandatory overtime as a staffing mechanism, allowing nurses to refuse forced overtime if they are too ill to provide safe patient care. No nurses will be required to work more than 16 hours in a single shift, and cannot be assigned more than 12 hours of mandatory overtime in a calendar quarter. The hospital has also agreed to post full schedules to minimize the need for mandatory overtime.
  • Protection from inappropriate floating – the pact provides protections for nurses who are asked to float to other units, with guarantees that they will receive appropriate orientation and are competent to practice in those areas.
  • Wage increase – the pact includes a 2% across the board wage increase for all nurses upon ratification.

In reaching the agreement, the union officially withdrew its strike notice and has scheduled a vote to ratify the agreement on May 19. The nurses began negotiating a new contract with Tufts Medical Center management in September of 2010 and a total of 19 negotiating sessions have been held to date. The current contract expired on Dec. 31, 2010.

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