Labor Relations

Negotiations Recap for November 15, 2011

This recap details the sixth session of the negotiations that began earlier this summer.

UWMC Presentation

UWMC shared state budget reductions alternatives that have been published by the Washington State Office of Financial Management (OFM). Proposed cuts go across general government, higher education, K-12 basic education, public safety, and health services. Included in Governor Gregoire’s supplemental budget proposal is a cut to state grants for hospitals that receive help with costs of providing charity care. The OFM report specifically calls out that the majority of this proposed $27.8 million reduction would affect Harborview Medical Center and the University of Washington Medical Center.

In addition to the proposed state cuts, UWMC anticipates significant revenue loss due to reductions to Medicaid, the Basic Health Plan, and other programs. The financial impact is not yet fully understood, but the loss of revenue is expected to be millions of dollars.

Ongoing Dialogue


UWMC and WSNA continued the discussion of salary increases. WSNA reiterated reasons why salary increases are justified including recruitment and retention concerns, rising costs of gas, parking, and healthcare coverage, and that salary increases are the best way to show how the medical center values and respects its nurses.

UWMC reiterated that the level of fiscal uncertainty precluded it from including salary increases in the second year of the contract. UWMC offered that nurse managers give regular feedback during rounds to support and recognize its nursing team, UWMC’s major investments in buildings, equipment and clinical programs improve the workplace environment for nurses, and that all staff have felt the impact of the increasing cost of living. Unlike other UWMC staff, nurses have received salary increases that help defray increased costs all employees have experienced. UWMC also shared that both new graduate and experienced nurse new hires have expressed appreciation for the practice environment UWMC offers professional nurses.

New Dialogue

Reaction to Steve Zieniewicz comments in Spotlight

WSNA brought up the note from Steve Zieniewicz in Spotlight that was distributed on November 4, 2011 and described UWMC as, “stable and successful, recognized locally and nationally for healthcare leadership, and well positioned for the challenges ahead.”

UWMC explained that the medical center earned a healthy operating margin last year, but significant cost pressures on the horizon create much budget uncertainty. State revenue losses, combined with higher operational costs associated with the opening of the new hospital wing, will result in lower margins for the next fiscal year at least.

Investments in facilities, equipment, and staffing will support nurses and their work. Recent projects include:

  • $185 million hospital expansion, including a state-of-the-art Neonatal unit
  • Upgrades to technology
  • Enhanced nurse staffing and bedside and housekeeping support

Many other hospitals in the region are responding to financial pressures with layoffs and the aggressive use of low census days for nurses. UWMC has been able to avoid these steps thus far. UWMC remains a competitive employer of registered nurses who wish to grow professionally based on its benefits package, practice resources, and a collaborative team practice environment.

Future Meetings

The parties agreed there is little reason to meet in December and that employing the services of a mediator may be a constructive next step.