In recent months, more than 2,770 nurses and healthcare professionals unionized with the Massachusetts Nurses Association and working in hospitals owned and operated by UMass Memorial Health Care ratified new contracts that include both historic wage increases and substantial workplace improvements.
Wage increases vary between 8% and 19.5%, depending on the facility and the length of the contract.
“Our UMass nurses and healthcare professionals have been the backbone of the Worcester-area hospitals since the pandemic started in early 2019. But these same professionals have also been overburdened and have often burned out,” said Katie Murphy, RN and MNA president. “Too many patients, too few resources, and insufficient compensation have forced them to leave the bedside. But with overdue improvements like those seen in these UMass contracts, we expect that nurses will return to and stay at the bedside — which is exactly what our local communities need.”
In total, MNA nurses and healthcare professionals at four local UMass hospitals settled contracts this past quarter. They include:
- UMass Memorial, which ratified a three-year contract on June 29, 2022
- Marlborough Hospital, which ratified a two-year contract on July 28, 2022
- Clinton Hospital, which ratified a two-year contract on September 7, 2022
- UMass University, which ratified a three-year contract on September 29, 2022
Especially noteworthy are the wage increases and wage scales for the 2,500 nurses at Worcester’s UMass University and UMass Memorial hospitals. These contracts, which are now in synch, already had a guaranteed pension; full-time health insurance for nurses who work more than 20 hours per week; and patient limits in most hospital areas. The new wage scale will bring nurses with more than 17 years of experience to nearly $82 per hour by 2024. Nurses with less than 17 years of experience will see a 33% wage increase over that same time.
UMass University and UMass Memorial have struggled to recruit and retain staff over the last few years, which has impacted the ability of the hospitals to live up to the patient limits outlined in the contract. With these new wage scales in place, there is hope that more nurses will come to and stay in Worcester to finally realize the safe patient limits provided in the contract.
Contract Highlights for UMass Memorial (ratified on June 29, 2022)
The new contract, which covers 1,137 RNs and healthcare professionals at UMass’ Memorial and Hahnemann campuses in Worcester, provides members with a 5% across-the-board wage increase in year one, a 5% overall increase in year two, and a 4% across-the-board increase in year three. In addition, all wages are retroactive and the steps on the overall wage scale were made consistent throughout, resulting in 5% increases between all steps. The contract will also secure significant increases for per-diem nurses, who generally work on an “as-needed” basis but have played incredibly vital roles over the last two years. This contract is the second at a UMass facility to be updated to use gender-inclusive pronouns.
Contract Highlights for Marlborough Hospital (ratified on July 28, 2022)
The 216 MNA members at Marlborough Hospital will receive, in addition to the standard step progression, a 4% across-the-board wage increase over the contract’s two-year term. All wages are retroactive and the steps on the wage scale have been made consistent throughout, resulting in 4% increases between all steps. Depending on their location on the wage scale, pay increases for some members will be as high as 19.5% over the contract’s span. The agreement also includes a new “Baylor Plan” option, which is an incentive plan that will pay a nurse who works 24 hours over a weekend as if they worked 30 hours. The goal of the plan is to help with the recruitment and retention of nurses for weekend shifts.
In addition to wage improvements, the new contract includes language that enhances the grievance process and the hospital’s workplace violence prevention protocols.
Contract Highlights for Clinton Hospital (ratified on September 7, 2022)
The 80 MNA members at Clinton Hospital negotiated across-the-board wage increases of 8% in their new two-year contract, won a new step at the top of the scale, and successfully renegotiated the wage scale overall so that every step reflects a 4% increase. In addition, RNs who serve as charge nurses will now earn an additional $2.50 per hour, and nurses temporarily assigned to higher-class work will earn $5 more per hour.
Contract Highlights for UMass University Medical Center (ratified on September 29, 2022)
The 1,339 MNA members at UMass University Medical Center successfully negotiated wage increases that, over the contract’s three-year span, total a minimum of 14%. This increase consists of across-the-board increases (5% in year one, 5% in year two, and 4% in year three) and the standardizing of the wage scale so that there is an eventual 5% increase between all steps. Wages and benefits are retroactive to February 6, 2022. The contract also permanently recognizes a previously established “Baylor Plan,” which is an incentive plan that will pay a nurse who works 24 hours over a weekend as if they worked 30 hours. The goal of the program is to help with the recruitment and retention of nurses for weekend shifts.
The nurses also won improvements to vacations, paid personal leave, and weekend scheduling for those working in the float pool (i.e., the dedicated group nurses whose role is to step into short-staffed units and/or relieve other nurses during their meals, etc.).