Monday, January 21, 2013

Prime time vacations

I met with T Buss and Karen Knight on Friday about a few things. Among them was the process of requesting prime time summer vacations. Some people had been told that if they failed to submit in January for summertime vacation that they would not be able to submit at a later time. I have received emails about this.  If you ever have questions, please email, call or stop me and ask.   Those questions are invaluable to me.
Vacations have been a problem because our contract language does not fully agree with the intent of either side during negotiations.  Contract language is critically important but so too is intent.  By going back into both union and management notes that are taken during negotiations, intent can be clarified.  On vacations, the language states you may submit 4 weeks in advance, however the intent was for 4 weeks minimum and the notes clearly reflect this.  That is why we previously worked out a 6 month time frame for submitting. For prime time, the language states a submission period of January for summer and July for winter, however the intent is also clear from notes and the intent is consistent with management and union needs.
On Friday, we were able to agree on the intent and the practice going forward.

Submitting in January allows better planning and is encouraged. It also increases the chance that the nurse will get the weeks they request as it is first come/first served.
However, if someone wishes to submit for a summer vacation after January, they will be able to do so with the same time guidelines as any non prime time vacation. As always, vacations are granted as patient care needs allow. T and Karen will contact the Clinical Coordinators to make sure they understand our agreement. Please be patient with them on this.

Vacations are a good example of how we can work together with management and come to solutions that are win-win. 
You may ask, "What about partial week vacation, I'm still being told I can't submit until 4 weeks prior?"
When we came to our agreement on the 6 month time frame for vacation submittals, we could not agree if the intent also applied to partial week vacations.  We filed a grievance claiming that it did.  The grievance process contains 3 steps.  At each step the employee, or union delegate, meets with members of management, and together they try to reach agreement.  If agreement cannot be reached, the union has the right to bring the grievance to arbitration. 
This is what happened with partial week vacations. 
In arbitration, an independent arbitrator that is acceptable to both sides, hears arguments on both sides and renders a decision.  This process is agreed to in the contract and the decision is final.
Our arbitration hearing on partial week vacations is expected to be held in February.

So, to recap, on disagreements with interpretation of the contract or any other issues dealing with wages, benefits, working conditions, or discipline, we sit with management, either in Labor/Management Committee, through the grievance process, or in a time sensitive case such as prime time vacation, one on one with Management and Union leadership, and try to find agreement, and if we cannot, an arbitrator has the final word.

That was a long explanation, but it's important for you to understand.
This Wednesday through Friday I will be in Washington for meetings with the other AFT Healthcare Local presidents from around the country, discussing issues important to all of us.  I'm travelling down with two of the L+M local presidents, Harry Rodriquez of the Healthcare Workers and Lisa D'Abrosca of the RNs.  Also going with us is Greg Kotecki, our field rep.  Stephanie Johnson, president of the L+M LPN/Techs is unable to make the trip so we will represent her people as well.
Harry, Lisa, Greg and I will go down early on Wednesday because we have three meetings with Representative Joe Courtney, Senator Chris Murphy and a top aide to Senator Dick Blumenthal, prior to the start of our conference. 
There are many changes happening in health care.  We can see them all around us, from the affiliation with Hartford to the Affordable Care Act.  We can either be swept up in those changes or be involved in shaping them.  Our choice is clear, we need to be involved. 
Who knows what works better than us, those working at the bedside.