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Des Peres Nurses Win First Collective Bargaining Pact

NNOC-Missouri Press Release, 10/18/13

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Highlight Patient Care Gains, Health Coverage Security

RN leaders count ballots, winning first collective bargaining pact 10/18/13.
Missouri--RN leaders count ballots, winning first collective bargaining pact 10/18/13.

Registered nurses at Des Peres Hospital in St. Louis have achieved their first ever collective bargaining contract citing important improvements in patient care protections and securing their employer-paid health coverage at a time when so many workers face cuts in health benefits, the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Missouri (NNOC-Missouri) said today.

The agreement, ratified by Des Peres RNs in membership meetings Thursday, also includes strong RN job security protections, along with economic gains.

Des Plains is the second St. Louis area hospital where RNs now have a NNOC-Missouri contract which nurses say is a huge encouragement to other St. Louis area RNs who would like to improve conditions for their patients and themselves.

RNs at Saint Louis University Hospital finalized their first contract in June. Nurses at both hospitals voted to join NNOC-Missouri, an affiliate of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of nurses, in June 2012. The SLUH agreement set the table for the Des Peres pact, both a stark contrast in an industry where employers continue to push concessions.

“Both these agreements show it is possible for nurses through collective unity and a strong union to advocate can secure significant improvements for their patients and their own livelihood and economic standards. We could not be more proud of the St. Louis RNs,” said NNU Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro, a St. Louis native.

"NNOC nurses are holding the line on healthcare costs at a time when other St. Louis hospitals are raising premiums, raising co-pays, and eliminating coverage for some nurses," said Terrie Chilton, RN Endoscopy. "Those kind of cuts are impossible under the contract we just ratified."

"Our contract gives us the tools we need to better advocate for our patients, while securing a future for our jobs and our families," said Eileen Wallhermfechtel, RN Orthopedics.  "This agreement ensures that if the hospital is sold nurses will keep their jobs, salaries, and all the other improvements secured in the contract."

In patient care arenas, the pact bars mandatory overtime to reduce RN fatigue which can lead to medical errors, limits the assignment of nurses to areas in which they do not have clinical expertise and orientation, and establishes a committee of direct care RNs elected by their colleagues to meet with management to address how to improve patient care.

Further the agreement limits the number of consecutive shifts RNs can be required to work without a day off to mitigate burnout and language that new technology implemented at the hospital will not be used to override RN clinical judgment to protect the right of nurses to act on behalf of individual patient needs.

While nurses and other workers, including some in the St. Louis area, have faced loss or rollback of existing health coverage, the Des Peres pact states the hospital will maintain existing plans without increasing the share of premiums paid by nurses.

The agreement, which runs through August 31, 2016, provides for wage increases of up to 7.75 percent with negotiations for a new agreement to begin April, 2016. Des Peres RNs received a 2.5 percent raise earlier this year. 

Another critical area for the RNs involves substantial provisions on job security, including seniority rights in the event of layoffs at a time other area hospitals are implementing RN layoffs, protections against unjust discipline, assurance of advance notice of scheduling, and the right of RNs to protest assignments they believe are unsafe for patients.

Des Peres, like SLUH, is a part of Tenet Healthcare one of the largest hospital systems in the U.S.  Overall, NNU affiliates represent 5,000 RNs at 13 Tenet hospitals in Florida, Texas, California, and Missouri.

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.


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