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University of Chicago RNs Win Major Gains, Nurses to Vote This Week on Tentative Pact

Press Release Press Release, 5/31/11

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For Immediate Release
May 31, 2011

Registered nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center will vote Wednesday and Thursday on a tentative contract settlement with University officials that achieves the nurses’ main goals with major improvements in patient care protections and economic and workplace standards for the RNs, as well as rejecting all of the hospital’s concessionary demands.

An agreement between the RN negotiating team and UCMC officials was reached over the weekend. The settlement, affecting 1,300 UCMC RNs, who voted last year voted to join National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union and professional association of RNs representing 170,000 RNs, which was critical to achieving the settlement, nurses say.

"This agreement will make a difference in lives of UCMC RNs and countless patients,” said Talisa Hardin, ICU RN and member of the negotiating team. “We chose to be part of a powerful and effective national RN union and that decision is what made this possible," Hardin said.

A key to the settlement was significant improvements in hospital staffing and other patient care issues, including a commitment to employ 16 new patient care support nurses positions to provide coverage so RNs can take meal and rest breaks, and to assist with admissions, discharges and other needs.

Further, the agreement establishes a new Professional Practice Committee of RNs, elected by their peers, to strengthen the voice of the UCMC RNs in meeting with management on patient care issues with specific timetables for management action on patient care concerns raised by the RNs.   

RNs also secured a major goal in substantially limiting a much disliked mandatory scheduling policy that forces nurses to continually shift between working days and nights which studies document leads to performance deficits from fatigue, sleeplessness and reduced alertness, heightening the danger of medical errors that put patients at risk.  

On economic issues, the RNs will earn additional pay increases of at least 15 percent over three years, and limits on out of pocket costs for their healthcare benefits. Additionally, the hospital will give preference to regular UCMC RNs over agency nurses in scheduling when census, the number of patients in the hospital, is low.

UCMC had sought reductions for the RNs in wage scales, tuition reimbursement, sick leave provisions and other areas, all of which were dropped in the final settlement.

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