Management recently sent out a “Bargaining Update” and shared its perspective on the current negotiations. We’d like to give you our perspective and set the record straight.
On April 24, 2019, we had our 19th bargaining session, again with the assistance of a mediator. This process has taken a long time – too long. For much of these negotiations, Management has demanded that we settle for a contract which would have subjected our fellow nurses to much uncertainty and the possibility of reduced wages and benefits. Only recently, have they begun to move away from these unacceptable positions. Management told us at the start of negotiations that they were still tying to figure out what they wanted to do about benefit levels and demanded that we agree to language that could have resulted in the reduction of wages and medical and retirement benefits during the life of the contract.
If this story sounds familiar, it is. During our last negotiations over two years ago, Management told us the same story — that they were not prepared to bargain over benefit levels. And when the current negotiations began, Management STILL was not ready.
Moreover, through much of these negotiations, Management has taken very hard lines on many issues that are of great importance to the bargaining unit and provided us with lip service rather than meaningful proposals. Several of their proposals stuck out like sore thumbs when compared to the contracts of other WSNA-represented facilities. Only recently, have they started to come around. It has taken the hard work of your fellow nurses on your WSNA bargaining team along with the incredible support of the bargaining unit over the past year to move Management off their objectionable positions. But there is work still to be done.
So where are we now? We have two more mediation sessions scheduled, and here is where we stand on some of the bigger issues.
WSNA came into negotiations proposing guaranteed wage increases for each year of the contract, as is common with other WSNA nursing contracts. In contrast, Management decided to rock the boat by proposing to tie wages to performance and by proposing possible wage reductions during the life of the contract. It was only after MONTHS AND MONTHS of bargaining that Management proposed to withdraw their troubling wage proposals but ONLY IF we ceded to their demands on a dozen other issues.
We are closer on wages now, but what Management conveniently neglected to mention in its update is that they are still insisting that any wage increase will be effective only after the contract has been ratified. Under Management’s proposal, there would be no wage increase for the year that we have been bargaining the contract. This is unacceptable, given that Management came to the table unprepared and insisted for a long time on proposals that were out of the norm for nursing contracts. We continue to propose wage increases for the “lost” year.
It’s a similar story with benefits. For months and months, Management insisted on the to ability to try to reduce medical and retirement benefits during the life of the contract. It was only recently that they have moved away from this position.
Since day one of bargaining, your WSNA team has been pushing hard on the issue of staffing. We have proposed language that would give nurses greater voice in staffing decisions through the staffing committee and the staffing complaint process. We have proposed language that would require Management to provide staffing levels that would ensure the safety of patients and the nurses, to refrain from assigning more patients than allowed by the staffing matrix, and to allow nurses the ability to take meal/rest breaks and much-needed vacations. For months and months, Management rejected these proposals and insisted that the only contract language that it would consider was to provide WSNA with information regarding staffing – information to which WSNA was already legally entitled! WSNA rejected this absurd and insulting proposal and continued to press for real staffing language. It was only after nearly a year of bargaining that Management began to put substantive staffing language on the table. While we have made progress in recent bargaining sessions on staffing, we are not done yet.
We hope that you now have a better understanding of why these negotiations have taken so long. We have recently begun to make much progress, and we expect to continue to making progress. If we do not, we will be reaching out to the bargaining regarding next steps to ensure that we get the contract that we deserve.
Your WSNA Negotiation Team: Peter Moore (MPC), Alyssa Stirpe (Stanwood), Randi Dykstra (Case Management), Rachel Yates (MPC), Liz Rainaud (FBC), Alice Riddle (IV Therapy) and Jessica Knutzen (Float Pool)
Questions? Contact WSNA Nurse Representative Sue Dunlap at email@example.com.