Patient care should never be compro­mised for the sake of the bottom line. As our patients’ number one advocates, we demanded to go to the bargaining table with UW Medicine this week and called for a furlough plan that would protect our members and their patients.

Our team of regis­tered nurses from UW Montlake and UW North­west came together to secure protec­tions and securi­ties for nurses after UW announced their intent to furlough nurses. We fought hard in a week-long battle to mitigate the impact of the employer’s plan that offered no guarantee of unemploy­ment or health insur­ance benefits. Addition­ally, it did not offer nurses flexi­bility to choose what was right for themselves and their families.

Our united efforts secured an MOU late Friday evening that provides additional protec­tions to nurses and will decrease impact on those who are slated to take furloughs. We agreed to the following provi­sions for our nurses:

  • Furloughs are sched­uled to start June 1, 2020 but can start earlier with mutual consent of affected RN and manager.
  • Volun­tary furlough can be requested for up to 8 weeks, distrib­uted by seniority.
  • Invol­un­tary furlough is a maximum of 3 weeks. Those slated for longer furloughs will be offered work within UW to minimize furlough weeks. (The employer’s original proposal had a number of RNs having to take 5 weeks of furlough!).
  • Furloughs can be extended, at employee request, with mutual consent from manager.
  • Nurses retain the right to trade furlough weeks with other nurses, with manager approval.
  • Classi­fied RNs can utilize 8 hours of eligible paid time off to maintain their healthcare.
  • The Univer­sity will make a good faith effort to provide the Per Diem/​Reserve regis­tered nurses at least eight hours/​month to work in order to maintain benefits. The employer agrees to notify house wide manage­ment of the intent to make a good faith effort to provide the Per Diem regis­tered nurses at least eight hours/​month to work to maintain benefits. Per Diem RNs may pick up shifts in part or whole from classi­fied staff in order work 8 hours per month required to maintain Health­care Benefits. (these added safeguards apply to over 130 Per Diem and Reserve RNs currently receiving benefits through UWMC).
  • Volun­tary furloughs will be utilized before invol­un­tary furloughs.
  • Employees may volun­teer for tempo­rary reduc­tion of FTE, by mutual consent. FTEs cannot be dropped more than 50% of current FTE and cannot be less than .5 FTE.
  • If the employer needs to call back a nurse from furlough, invol­un­tary furloughs will be called before voluntary.
  • Nurses have no oblig­a­tion to work or be on call while on furlough.
  • Nurses will receive 48-hour notice to return to work, but will receive no penalty if personal circum­stance prevents their return.
  • Good faith efforts will be made to not furlough nurses again until after November 1, 2020. (this is huge in the face of finan­cial uncertainty).
  • Vacation, sick leave and holiday compen­sa­tion will continue to accrue, and proba­tionary periods and seniority will not be adjusted for furlough time off.

We under­stand that there is still anxiety around furloughs and the impact it has on the lives of everyone involved. The following resources will be able to answer some of your questions and provide you with resources to assist you in the Unemploy­ment process:

UW HR- https://​hr​.uw​.edu/benefits/
Or call at 206 – 543-4444

Prior to applying for Unemploy­ment, we encourage workers to review these pages:

Please note that the ESD has had many fraud­u­lent cases for unemploy­ment. Applying early will help alleviate delays in your claims. Please see the ESD website for more details.

Q: I want to volun­teer for furlough, but I’ve been waiting for this agree­ment. Should I volun­teer? A: Because of our agree­ment, we feel confi­dent that it is safe for you to volun­teer for furloughs if that is the right decision for you and your family. You should email your manager to volun­teer before Friday, May 29 and you can volun­teer to furlough for up to 8 weeks. Volun­teer furlough weeks will be awarded highest seniority first.

Q: Can I volun­teer for a reduced FTE? A: Yes, you can volun­teer for a reduced FTE however, we recom­mend for nearly everyone to try to volun­teer for full week furlough incre­ments because that will result in the highest payment from unemploy­ment.

Q: I can’t afford a furlough. What should I do? A: Many of us are worried about making ends meet during periods of furlough. First, volun­teers may be able to cover the furlough needs of your unit or depart­ment. The unemploy­ment weekly payments are at an all time high right now because of the CARES Act.

Q: Will my furlough turn into a perma­nent layoff? A:We cannot say for sure but your furloughs should not turn into a perma­nent layoff. If UW wants to decrease our FTEs or lay us off, they still need to provide a 30-day notice and follow our CBA.

Q: How do I protect my insur­ance benefits during a furlough 4 weeks or longer? A: You will need to use 8 hours of accrued time to maintain your insur­ance benefits or you should not volun­teer for a full month.

Q: Will this impact my retire­ment? A: No, our contin­uous service date will not be impacted.

Q: Will I come back to my same position? A: Yes, you are guaran­teed the same schedule, shift, FTE, position and pay.

Q: What do I do if my unit’s staffing is unsafe during the furloughs? A: Admin­is­tra­tion committed to maintain our current staffing practices. We need to take action, fill out Staffing Complaint forms/​ADOs, and we reserve the right to file griev­ances if admin­is­tra­tion does not meet our current staffing practices.

Q: How do holidays impact my unemploy­ment eligi­bility? A: Taking a paid holiday could reduce your unemploy­ment payment. You may wish to bank your holiday instead.

Q: How much unemploy­ment can I get? A: We are recom­mending to not volun­teer for furloughs that are less than one week so that you can maximize how much unemploy­ment will pay you. Visit https://esd. wa​.gov/​u​n​e​m​p​l​o​y​m​e​n​t​/​c​a​l​c​u​l​a​t​e​-​y​o​ur-benefit to estimate your unemploy­ment benefit.

Q: When does my unemploy­ment begin? A: Washington has waived the one-week waiting period (currently having a June 1 deadline under consid­er­a­tion for exten­sion), so benefits should begin as of the date you apply, except that under CARES, benefits are avail­able retroac­tively back to January 27, 2020. The unemploy­ment office is handling an unprece­dented number of unemploy­ment claims, and will issue checks on approved claims as quickly as possible, but it may take longer than usual. If you need assis­tance in the interim, please see additional resources in the links above.

We thank you for every­thing that you do and will continue to fight for you!

In Unity,
your WSNA Furlough MOU RN Bargaining Team
Anita Stull, RN, UW Montlake 7N Inpatient Psych
Teresa Wren, BSN, RN, UW Montlake MIC
Chris Jakubowski, BSN, RN, UW Montlake Cardio­vas­cular Proce­dures Unit
Alicia Mau, RN, UW Montlake Cardio­vas­cular Proce­dures Unit
Grace Jones, RN, UW Montlake CV ICU
Josef Mansour, RN, UW North­west Emergency Dept
Carle Coyle, RN, UW North­west ICU

Additional questions can be addressed by your Nurse Representative:

Ed Zercher, UW Montlake-

Brenda Balogh, UW North­west-