Labor Relations

Negotiations Recap – March 30, 2012

This recap details the eighth round of bargaining and the second session facilitated by a Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) appointed mediator.

UWMC began by noting that its state funding remains unresolved, as the Legislature is still in session. The economic downturn creates a precarious financial situation for many hospitals in the region. In budgeting for the 2013 fiscal year, UWMC is confronted with a minimum $30 million gap to close in operating costs.

UWMC has seen erosion in its payer mix, meaning fewer patients are commercially insured and more are either uninsured or supported by Medicaid. The change in payer mix is a double hit to UWMC’s financial condition, as the cost of care exceeds the patients’ ability to pay.

To make it safe to negotiate, UWMC and WSNA exchanged some hypothetical proposals through the mediator. These “what if” proposals allow both parties to be creative in exploring settlement options without committing either side to a fixed position.

UWMC “What If” Proposals

UWMC suggested a compromise package for a one-year agreement through the mediator, including:

BSN Premium Pay
UWMC would compensate nurses holding a BSN or higher nursing degree (such as an MN or MSN), paying them an extra $1 per hour premium. This is consistent with UWMC’s strategic plan as an ANCC ‘Magnet’ hospital, which includes its goal of 80% of UWMC nurses holding a BSN by 2015.
Filling in Waiting Steps on the RN Wage Scale
UWMC would agree to fill in the four “dead steps” L, M, Q, and R on the RN wage scale.
Sick Leave Notice
UWMC maintained its proposal to require that day-shift nurses call in a sickness-related absence two hours before the start of their scheduled shift, as is the policy for night-shift nurses.
Short Break Premium
UWMC upheld its proposal to align with its competitor hospitals on premium pay for shortened breaks, but offered to increase the proposed 10 hours off between shifts to 10 ½ hours off for all shift lines.
UWMC maintained its proposal to prorate the Rest Between Shift (Short Break) premium, so that the amount of time nurses are paid at the rate of time-and-one-half corresponds directly with the amount of time lost from their required between-shift rest period.
Mandatory Union Membership
UWMC did not agree with WSNA’s proposal to require union membership for new hires, maintaining that it is each nurse’s own professional decision to become a union member.
Innovative 4-Week Schedules
UWMC would agree to drop its proposal to move towards a 40-hour work period, and instead maintain the 28 day/160-hour scheduling option over the next year.

WSNA’s Response

WSNA turned down the bulk of UWMC’s hypothetical proposal package. While the union favored the additional financial benefits within, it still rejected a balanced approach to achieving compromise. The union remained steadfast on most of its initial provisions, including its proposal to make WSNA union membership mandatory for new hires, and some of UWMC’s concessions were met with additional demands by WSNA.

UWMC explained that additional enhancements will be difficult to accommodate without some financial efficiencies included in the package.

The next UW/WSNA mediated session is scheduled for April 23, 2012.