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New Four-Year Pact for 12,000 California and Nevada Dignity RNs

National Nurses United Press Release, 8/28/13

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Casting ballots at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, CA

Nurses Hail Protection of Health Coverage and Pension Plans

Praise Groundbreaking ‘RN Accident Prevention Program’

Registered nurses at one of the nation’s largest hospital systems, Dignity Health, have reached a major new tentative collective bargaining contract covering some 12,000 RNs at 28 Dignity hospitals in California and Nevada that nurses say is a sharp break from a concessionary spiral so prevalent among many employers in healthcare and other sectors.

The power of the 12,000 RNs at so many hospitals in diverse communities, and the decision of Dignity to respect the nurses, their union, and seek a path of accommodation, rather than confrontation, were key to successful negotiations and the agreement, said NNU today.

At its center, the agreement guarantees no reduction in health coverage, expands guaranteed pensions and retiree health benefits, and establishes a dramatic new “RN Accident Prevention Program” program that NNU says is the first in the nation by a major hospital system that provides unprecedented supplemental insurance protection for nurses injured in workplace violence or by needle stick accidents.

Voting
Voting at California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA

The RNs are members of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee-Nevada, both part of the 185,000-member National Nurses United. The RNs will hold ratification meetings in the coming weeks at Dignity hospitals in Northern California, Southern California, the Sacramento region, San Bernardino, the Central California Coast, and Las Vegas.

“At a time when nurses and other American workers are facing an all out employer assault on health coverage, retirement security, wages and workplace rights, and RNs are struggling to maintain their ability to be effective advocates for patient protections, this agreement is a seminal achievement that should resonate throughout the healthcare industry,” said NNU executive director RoseAnn DeMoro.

A national model

“Dignity RNs have set a national model for protecting both their patients and their own security, and building on a promising future for their own families. What a contrast with other employers and their CEOs. Some of them, like Sutter, neighbors of Dignity hospitals in the same communities are more intent on driving down standards for nurses and patients in pursuit of squeezing out ever more profits than on reaching a fair agreement that respects the concerns of the nurses, their collective voice through their union, and their patients,” DeMoro said. 

“Nurses around the nation will look at this agreement, especially the RN Accident Prevention Program with appreciation for the forward approach to protect dedicated nurses, their communities, and their patients. I could not be more proud of the unity and dedication of the Dignity RNs to achieve this monumental program,” DeMoro added.

“Dignity Health Registered Nurses have won precedent setting language with supplemental insurance, paid by the employer,  providing benefits to RN's who are the victims of workplace violence,” said Kathy Dennis, RN at Dignity’s Mercy General hospital in Sacramento.

“We are so pleased to win a special protection plan to secure nurses’ future should they be injured by workplace violence. The nurses at my facility will be very pleased with the agreement,” said Carole Koelle, RN at Dignity’s St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino. 

Glendale Hospital
Casting ballots at Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, CA

While Dignity hospitals, say the RNs, have not experienced the problems with workplace violence that have become prevalent at some other hospitals, “this agreement shows vision and a commitment by the hospitals to assure the highest degree of safety for our patients, their families, and the staff,” said Lorna Gunderson, RN at Dignity’s Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.

Agreement highlights

  • The RN Accident Prevention Program commits the hospitals to adopt meaningful violence prevention policies and threat detection, assessment and management, prompt investigation and zero tolerance of any reported incidents, and ensure safe staffing on all units on all shifts, which are all key for safe workplace settings.
  • Further, the policy is backed up with a financial commitment – providing RNs with supplemental insurance benefits of up to $200,000 in the event of accidental death, felonious assault, contraction of HIV or hepatitis from needle sticks, as well as other indemnity benefits and trauma counseling.
  • While companies like Sutter are demanding more than 100 reductions in contract standards and patient protections, the Dignity pact secures the health, dental and vision plans, and actually expands both the defined benefit, guaranteed pension coverage by offering it to more RNs, as well as strengthening Dignity’s retiree health coverage.
  • Over the four years of the agreement, RNs will receive additional pay hikes of 9 percent, on top of a 2 or 3 percent pay increase (depending on location) earlier this year that is already in effect.
  • All the hospitals, including the Las Vegas St. Rose Dominican facilities, will now be a part of one master unit, with local bargaining maintained for individual facilities, with a system-wide RN bargaining council to work to further assure quality patient care and RN standards in all Dignity hospitals.

Voting at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, CA

“Dignity Health RNs came together from California and Nevada to achieve common goals to secure established contract gains, and further improve patient safeguards,” said Bakersfield Memorial RN Sandy Reding. “In the current environment of corporate takeaways, our nurses’ strong resolve, coupled with the willingness to take the steps necessary to preserve and improve our contract standards, was effective. Strong contract provisions attract the best nurses and allow us to provide the highest quality of care for the patients in our communities.”

"With a solid contract in place, we are able to continue to deliver excellent, safe, patient care to those people in our communities,” said Mary Albert, an RN at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach. “In answer to the nursing surveys, we have accomplished our goal to maintain health care, increase retirement, pension plans and health savings accounts for our RNs.  Our patient ratios are solid and patient safety issues continue as our top priority.”  

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