NYPNU Nurses Ratify New Contract
November 6, 2012
By Marc Bussanich
Nurses of the New York Professional Nurses Union reached a tentative, three-year agreement with Lenox Hill last week. On Monday, November 5 nearly 100 percent of the union nurses ratified the three-year contract that preserves their health care plan, grants annual raises and protects nurse-to-patient ratios.
Maureen McCarthy, RN, President of NYPNU, said the contract is significant because this is the first time the union negotiated with North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, which acquired Lenox Hill in March 2010.
“The new contract is very significant because nurses told us they heard rumors, unverified, that North Shore wanted to break our union. But they didn’t accomplish that. Our nurses were in strong solidarity behind the negotiating committee and the administration recognized the dedication and professionalism of the nurses,” said McCarthy.
The administration presented the union with a list of 46 proposals that essentially amounted to givebacks.
“Some areas of the contract we changed slightly to accommodate what the administration needed, but nothing substantial changed to the detriment of nurses,” McCarthy said.
For example, the contract prevented the administration from floating nurses to any unit they deemed required extra staffing. But the union agreed to allow the administration to float nurses to another hospital unit to take care of patients they typically care for.
The hospital wanted to eliminate six-week vacations for newly hired workers, but the union did not want a two-tier employee system and resisted the hospital’s proposal to extend from 15 years to 25 years of service new nurses would need to reach six-weeks’ worth of vacation.
The union submitted a list of approximately 22 proposals to the hospital. Maintaining the nurses’ health care plan was essential. According to McCarthy, the administration proposed the nurses pay a premium in order to maintain their health plan. The hospital has its own plan and demanded Lenox Hill nurses use it, but if they didn’t the nurses would have to pay a lot of money to keep the plan of their choice.
“We’d have to pay a premium of $100 per month for single coverage and up to $400 per month for family.” But the union held firm and the two sides agreed to no contributions in the first and second year of the contract and $25 per month for single coverage and up to $200 per month for family in the third contract year.
McCarthy noted the union is very satisfied with the new contract.
“We’re very pleased. We think it goes a long way in helping nurses through their daily shift because we prevented a lot of the takebacks management wanted.”
On the administration’s proposal list was an end to the prohibition of mandatory overtime.
“They wanted to have the ability to mandate overtime whenever they wanted, and that’s a patient safety issue for us and we weren’t going to let that happen,” noted McCarthy.
Also important for the nurses to resist was the administration’s demand to eliminate clinical divisions so that they could float nurses to any division that needed help. But McCarthy said this demand would be dangerous to nurses and patients.
“A nurse can only float to another unit within their assigned division. The administration would be putting nurses at risk by floating them from the maternal and child health division to the ICU or an ICU nurse to pediatrics.”
The NYPNU nurses also won consecutive three to four percent annual raises, a doubling of contributions to the defined contribution plan and preservation of tuition benefits of $7,500 for nurses to pursue advanced degrees.