El Paso RNs Approve First Union Contract
Cite Patient Care, Economic Improvements
Registered nurses at El Paso’s Providence Memorial Hospital and Sierra Medical Center have won their first ever collective bargaining contracts winning significant patient care protections and economic improvements.
Some 750 RNs at the two hospitals, part of the Tenet Health system, are represented by National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas, an affiliate of National Nurses United, the largest U.S. organization of RNs. The pacts were unanimously ratified by the RNs in membership meetings this week.
Key elements to the agreement were provisions that will strengthen the ability of RNs to address safe staffing, economic fairness in determining compensation, and more security over work scheduling.
“I’m so pleased that we organized with NNOC-Texas. We ratified our contract including an agreement that the hospital will maintain a staffing system and the nurses will have an ability to make recommendations and enforce that staffing system through our NNOC Professional Practice Committee,” said Providence RN Luis Velez.
“We formed a union so we could have fair treatment and economic justice,” said Sierra RN Monica Martell. “When we agreed to the contract which created a wage system that rewarded years of experience and eliminated the cap on wages for long term nurses, people really saw the benefit of being part of a union.”
On patient care, the contract requires to hospital to maintain a patient classification system that determines staffing by individual patient need, not budgetary priorities, and gives direct care RNs the ability to review and intervene with management to adjust staffing levels.
The agreements bar mandatory overtime, which is critical to reducing RN fatigue that can lead to medical errors. Limits are established on the unsafe assignment of nurses to areas outside their clinical expertise, and RNs will have a contractual right to raise safety concerns over any particular assignment.
All the RNs will receive guaranteed pay increases of up to 8 percent over the next three years. But most importantly for the RNs, the nurses will now have the assurance of a transparent pay scale based on years of experience, rather than wages that are tied to the preference of hospital managers.
The agreements also provide for more certainty for the RNs in their work schedules, requiring schedules to be posted in advance and guaranteeing work to hospital RNs before offering shifts to nurses working for outside agencies.
NNU affiliates represent 5,000 RNs at 13 Tenet hospitals in Texas, Florida, California, and Missouri.
RNs at Providence voted to join NNOC-Texas in 2012. Sierra RNs voted to join earlier this year. Since its founding two and a half years ago, NNU has organized 15,000 RNs at 40 hospitals in 13 states. Today NNU represents more than 185,000 RNs.