The registered nurses of Quincy Medical Center last night ratified a new union contract that they hope will result in safer staffing conditions and that will also allow nurses to provide the care their patients deserve. The nurses reached a tentative agreement on the new pact on Sept. 10, a few weeks after placing a full page ad in the local papers seeking the public’s support in convincing their management to adhere to staffing levels promised to the nurses and the public, staffing levels that are necessary for the delivery of safe patient care.
The new contract calls for the hospital to adhere to specific staffing guidelines for each area of the hospital on a daily basis, and it also limits the assignments for resource nurses, those nurses whose role it is to manage the flow of care, and to ensure the efficient movement of patients throughout the system.
“We are cautiously optimistic that with this new contract the hospital will honor its previous commitments regarding nurses’ patient assignments,” said Paula Ryan, chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit. “However, given the hospital’s handling of these negotiations, their treatment of nurses over the last several months, and their past refusal to staff appropriately, we intend to watch this situation closely and will continue to inform the public of our concerns for patient safety, as patients have the most to lose if the hospital fails to uphold this agreement.”
For their part, the nurses agreed to accept the hospitals demand for a 3 percent wage cut, along with a freeze to their pension and other benefit concessions, in exchange for a guarantee that those changes would sunset and wages and benefits would be restored at a specific time. For example, the wage cut will sunset on March 31, 2011 and the pension freeze will be lifted as of Dec. 31, 2010.
“As always, the nurses have agreed to make sacrifices for the good of the hospital,” Ryan said. “All we are looking for is to be treated with respect and for conditions that allow us to provide quality patient care.”
Negotiations for a new contract began on February 18, 2010, with only a total of six sessions held, when management abruptly ended negotiations, declared impasse and implemented their last offer on April 4, 2010. The nurses immediately filed a charge of unfair labor practice against the hospital and hundreds of nurses picketed the facility on April 1. When the NLRB failed to uphold the MNA’s charge, the union appealed the decision to the NLRB in Washington but has agreed to withdraw the appeal following ratification of the contract. The newly ratified agreement will expire on Jan. 31, 2011.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.
Source: Massachusetts Nurses Association