Labor Relations

Negotiations Recap – March 20, 2012

UWMC and WSNA began mediation on February 29, 2012 with a mediator appointed from the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral third party facilitates the discussion with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable settlement. A mediator can suggest compromises, but cannot order either party to agree to a specific proposal or contract settlement.

At the start of this first session, the mediator asked UWMC and WSNA to meet together to share their perspectives on why an agreement has not yet been reached and review outstanding proposals.

Scope of Negotiations

UWMC began negotiations with WSNA in the summer of 2011 for the second year of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which runs July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013. Instead of focusing on the final year of the current agreement, WSNA has presented a three-year proposal for wage and benefits.

UWMC has explained that it is not able to expand the scope of negotiations into the 2013- 15 biennium due to legislative uncertainty (proposed changes in state Medicaid’s reimbursements, disproportionate share funding, and the possible elimination of Basic Health Plan, Disability Lifeline, Physician Supplemental Services Program, and the Safety Net Program) AND a high level of budget uncertainty (including changes in Medicare reimbursements, indirect medical education, and disproportionate share funding). In addition, UWMC anticipates that the 2013 implementation of the Health Benefit Exchange (part of heathcare reform) will bring a net revenue loss growing from $11.3 to $41.9 million over the first 3 years of the program.

UWMC also shared the state’s decision to increase the employer share of the “benefits load rate” from 33.4% to 38.9%. Just to maintain the current benefits program for UWMC nurses, who comprise 35% of medical center payroll, adds $5.6 million more in operating costs.

WSNA proposes a three-year contract with annual 3% across-the-board raises plus two new top steps for the most senior nurses. The union also seeks increases to existing pay premiums and additional time off, at an annual additional cost exceeding $3.1 million.

UWMC has provided data showing that recent pay increases at other Puget Sound region medical centers have not been at or near the level WSNA is proposing.

Work Rule Proposals

UWMC shared with the mediator the following work rule proposals that have not yet been resolved through negotiations.

Advance Notification of Sick Leave
Standardize advanced notice for sick leave, requiring day shift nurses to give two hours notice, like their colleagues on evening and night shifts.
Shift Break Premium
Align with community standards of providing 10 or 12 hours off duty between shifts. At most hospitals, if a nurse receives less than the full amount of time off between shifts, the nurse will be paid overtime for shortfall in rest hours. UWMC nurses currently receive a full eight hours of overtime for any reduction in the rest allotment, as little as a half-hour.
Hours of Work
Changes in Shift Length: UWMC proposed removing contract language that specifies that all temporary or permanent changes in shift length be mutually agreed upon between individual nurses and their manager.
UWMC is not suggesting any change to article 7.1.1. that states, “The Medical Center will endeavor to assign nurses to shifts of their desired length and will attempt to restrict changing a nurse’s shift length to those times when such change is mutually agreeable or is determined to be operationally necessary by the Medical Center.”
40-Hour Work Week: UWMC has proposed moving to a 40-hour work period for overtime purposes, discontinuing use of the four-week work period because of the resulting operational challenges. A 40-hour- seven-day work week is the community standard, and will allow for more reliable and predictable scheduling. UWMC is not proposing to eliminate self-scheduling, or posting a four week schedule. Overtime Rounding Rule: UWMC has proposed moving to an eight minute rounding rule for overtime, which is already anticipated in the current contract with Kronos implementation.
On-Call Staffing: UWMC has proposed developing on-call rosters to manage unpredictable increases in patients coming to the emergency and maternity units. The proposal is consistent with Article 7 of the CBA and nurses would schedule on-call shifts as part of the self-scheduling process.
Re-open Sick Leave Article
UWMC has proposed designing an incentive to reduce unscheduled absences, in cooperation with the union.