Nurses cite significant patient care, economic gains as ‘foundation for better future’
St. Louis – Registered nurses at St. Louis University Hospital (SLUH) have won their first ever collective bargaining agreement with a new three-year contract that provides for significant improvements in patient care protections, compensation and job protections.
“Nurses are thrilled to have a contract that improves our ability to advocate for our patients and recruit and retain quality nurses,” said Carmen Moorehead, an RN at SLUH for 38 years and a member of the negotiating team. “We have laid the foundation for a better future.”The contract is believed to be the first in the St. Louis area since nurses at St. John’s Mercy organized early in the last decade and negotiated a contract. But they voted to decertify in 2007 rather than approve a second contract.
One key element of the SLUH contract is a ban on mandatory overtime.
“We don’t want nurses forced into overtime because that’s when mistakes get made and the patients are the ones that suffer when that happens,” said Tim Kamp, an RN in the hospital’s various intensive care units.
“Our goal has always been to improve patient care and that’s exactly what this contract is going to give us.”
Moorehead, Kamp and the other nurses at SLUH are members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Missouri (NNOC-Missouri), an affiliate of the 185,000-member National Nurses United (NNU), the largest organization of RNs in the United States.
NNOC-Missouri represents some 600 RNs at SLUH, which is now the only St. Louis hospital where RNs have a union contract.
“This is a historic achievement for St. Louis nurses that will set a standard for all St. Louis RNs, patients and the entire community in strengthening patient protections, workplace rights and improved healthcare for the region,” NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said.
Nurses at Des Peres Hospital, who like SLUH RNs voted to join NNOC-Missouri last June, are presently negotiating with on a first contract as well.
Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. operates both SLU and Des Peres hospitals
OTHER PATIENT PROTECTIONS
The agreement includes several important provisions intended to strengthen patient protections, including:
• Limits on the practice of assigning RNs to work in hospital areas where they do not have specialty expertise;
• The establishment of a committee of direct care RNs elected by their colleagues to meet with management to discuss and resolve patient care concerns.
• Provisions to protect their workplace rights, including greater advance notice of work schedules, improved procedures for layoffs and schedule cancellations and just cause language and grievance procedures to assure fair treatment in the event of discipline.
• The hospital will not implement new technology that undermines RN’s professional judgment, and that it will be subject to review by the RN’s patient care committee.
The rapid spread of expensive technology in healthcare, from electronic medical records to robotics, has led to concerns about the quality of care in hospitals around the country, the nurses’ union said.
All SLUH RNs will receive across the board pay increases of between 8.5 and 9.5 percent over the three years of the contract. Wage rates will be improved as well for new hires in a contract that nurses expect will greatly enhance recruitment as well as retention of RNs at the hospital. Nurses who work holidays will be paid at time and a half their regular pay rate.
HOLDING THE LINE
ON HEALTH COVERAGE
SLUH RNs also held the line on health coverage costs. At a time wen employers, including many in the healthcare industry, are shifting more out-of-pocket costs for health benefits to employees, SLUH RNs won’t see additional deductibles, co-pays or pay a higher percentage of their premiums during the course of the contract.