As we previously reported, your fellow nurses on the WSNA bargaining team met with Management on Nov. 8, 2019. We came prepared with a comprehensive and competitive proposal including fair and equitable wage and premium increases, better nurse staffing, and protection for nurses against violence in the workplace.
Management came with not a single proposal, which was incredibly disappointing, considering that they have had months and months to prepare for this day. After we gave them our proposal, they did not have a response for us. Now, Management is taking a page from a well-worn union-busting playbook and trying to manufacture a “crisis” to put pressure on nurses. In a recent communication, Management alerted nurses that the contract expired on Nov. 15, 2019, and that nurses would be operating “without a contract until a new agreement is reached.” What Management failed to provide you with is some helpful context.
WSNA offered to extend the contract, as is appropriate and common under the circumstances, considering that we have had only one session thus far and considering that Management refused to make any proposals on the first day. It’s not like Management did not have any time to prepare for the first day of negotiations. Management declined WSNA’s offer to extend the contract. We assume they did so to create an air of uncertainty around negotiations and to try to weaken the solidarity of nurses in the bargaining unit so as to weaken your voice and power at the table.
Management tried something similar last negotiations. It did not work then, and it will not work now. So, what does Management’s refusal to extend the contract mean?
First, the Hospital is required to maintain the status quo while the bargaining process continues at this point. This means that the Hospital is not permitted to institute unilateral changes to existing terms and conditions of employment. The terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement continue, even though it is expired, with a few exceptions.
For example, Article 19 “Uninterrupted Patient Care” has expired. This article limits the bargaining unit from engaging in certain concerted activities, such as striking, picketing, work slowdowns, etc., while the contract is in effect. These limitations no longer exist, and WSNA is permitted to organize such activities should the bargaining unit wish to do so.
Second, Article 18 “Management Rights” has expired. Now that this article has expired, Management is much more limited in being able to unilaterally control day-to-day operations in the Hospital. If you find that Management wants to change something related to your working conditions, please contact your Nurse Representative. The Hospital cannot change working conditions unilaterally. If it does so, it may have committed an Unfair Labor Practice and be subject to prosecution by the National Labor Relations Board.
Third, how grievances under the contract are resolved could change. However, as noted above, your working conditions and protections cannot be unilaterally changed by the employer.
Our next session is scheduled for Dec. 6, 2019. Management owes it to its nurses to take the time to prepare for negotiations and present a comprehensive proposal to WSNA just as WSNA did on the first day of negotiations.
Your fellow nurses on your WSNA negotiations team