Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Contract Essentials

Now that our contract has been ratified, it is an agreement between the nurses and the hospital on wages, benefits and working conditions. It is being proof read and then will be signed by the bargaining committee, printed out, and distributed to every bargaining unit employee. I will try to point out some highlights.

First, a word about Union Membership Application cards and Agency Fees cards.  All non salary full and part time nurses budgeted for 4 or more hours/week are covered by this contract.  You are entitled to full union representation.  Per diem nurses are not covered by the contract.  However, if the hospital continues to place any requirement on you that you work a minimum number of hours, then you are no longer considered per diem.  Confusing yes, but it will work itself out shortly.
Union Membership cards entitle you to full union membership, including the ability to shape the agenda of the Backus Federation of Nurses, AFT Connecticut and AFT, to serve as a delegate (steward) or officer, to vote for officers, contracts, constitution/bylaws, attend union meetings, to participate on union committees, including bargaining committee, to take advantage to union discounts (aft.org/members), and more.

Check-Off of Agency Fees cards authorize the hospital to deduct agency fees.  (The costs of administering the contract that all are required to pay under law) We anticipate our agency fees to be about 70% of union dues. Remember that Agency Fee nurses, as non union members, forfeit the ability to shape the agenda.

The union dues and agency fees will be set by the constitution/bylaw committee and voted on by all union members.  The next committee meeting is 6/4 and the tentative date for the vote is 6/14.

Many things are unchanged or only slightly changed.  You may ask, if they're unchanged, why did we need to form a union and negotiate a contract?  The difference now is they cannot be changed at the will of the hospital, as in the past.  Now, wages, benefits, and working conditions must be negotiated.

Here are some of the changes that will be of interest.

3% increase as of 6/3/12,
2.25% increase June 2013,
1% increase June 2014.
There is now a minimum wage for each graduation class.
If the % increase leaves you below the minimum for your class you would go to the minimum.

Health Insurance- PPO  2, no change in coays/deductibles.  We pay a % of the total cost of our insurance.
                                                     32 hour or more employee
                                    NOW             JAN 2013      JAN 2014         JAN 2015
employee                       8.5%               12.2%           16.7%              21.7%    
employee +1                 11.5%              12.2%           16.7%              21.7%
family                            11.7%              12.2%          16.7%               21.7%
                                                       24-32 hour employee
employee                      16.43%             22.43%        29.18%              36.68%
employ +1                    23.02%              22.43%        29.18%               36.68%
family                           23.42%              22.43%        29.18%               36.68%

Dental and Vision, no significant changes.

Retirement-403b with matching funds as before (2011 matching funds to be deposited the week of 6/10/12), no shared rewards discretionary match.  Old Pension plan, unchanged.

Evaluations- Hospital determines the form and method used for evaluations.  Wages are not tied to evaluations and evaluations cannot be used in any arbitration.

Shift differentials- unchanged.

Bereavement Pay- unchanged, except now may request additional time off if needed for death of relative (unpaid or vacation time) and may request time off for a non relative and use vacation time. Requests cannot be unreasonably denied.

On Call- unchanged except: anyone currently working and living more than 25 minutes from the hospital is except from the 30 minute rule, hospital will establish parking area solely for on call use near the doorway, on call nurse may punch at any time clock, and will have 10 minute dressing time after punch in.

Holidays/Weekends- unchanged except differential now $5.

In my opinion, the most important change is in our Just Cause article.

Without a contract, we could be disciplined or discharged for any reason unless we could prove discrimination for race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, genetic information of marital status, and the burden of proof was on us.
The Just Cause article says, "No employee (bargaining unit nurse) shall be disciplined or discharged without just cause".
Now, unless there is a just reason (just cause), we cannot be disciplined or discharged and if we disagree with the hospital, the Grievance and Arbitration article gives us a mechanism for recourse, including an in dependant arbitrator if needed.

It will take some time for both sides to come to understand and live by this agreement.  There will be bumps in the road.  We are in agreement with Theresa and Karen in HR that we will all try to smooth such bumps and avoid unnecessasary grievances.  There will be times when a supervisor or a nurse doesn't yet understand the new landscape.  There will be other times when we must agree to disagree and at those times we will work through the grievance process and the contract will guide us.

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