St. Louis University Hospital RNs Win First Contract
Nurses Cite Significant Patient Care, Economic Gains
ST. LOUIS –Registered nurses at Saint Louis University Hospital (SLUH) have won their first ever collective bargaining agreement with a new three year contract that provides for significant improvements in patient care protections, compensation, and job protections.
The settlement, achieved late last week between hospital officials and a nurse negotiating team was ratified by SLUH RNs in membership meetings held over the weekend, announced National Nurses Organizing Committee-Missouri (NNOC-Missouri) today.
NNOC-Missouri, an affiliate of the 185,000-member National Nurses United (NNU), the largest organization of RNs in the U.S., represents some 600 RNs at SLUH.
With the agreement, SLUH is now the only St. Louis hospital where RNs have a union contract. Nurses at Des Peres, who like SLUH RNs also voted to join NNOC-Missouri last June, are presently negotiating with that hospital on a first contract as well.
“This is a historic achievement for St. Louis nurses that will set a standard for all St. Louis RNs, patients, and the entire community in strengthening patient protections, workplace rights, and improved healthcare for the region. Congratulations to the St. Louis University Hospital RNs, we’re proud of you,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro, a native of St. Louis.
"Nurses are thrilled to have a contract that improves our ability to advocate for our patients and recruit and retain quality nurses," said Carmen Moorehead, RN at SLUH for 38 years and negotiating team member. "We have laid the foundation for a better future."
Ban on mandatory overtime and other patient protections
At SLUH, the agreement includes several important provisions that will strengthen patient protections say nurses. These include a ban on mandatory overtime as fatigued RNs can be more prone to make medical errors, limits on the practice of assigning RNs to work in hospital areas for which they do not have specialty expertise, and a committee of direct care RNs elected by their colleagues to meet with management to discuss and resolve patient care concerns.
The pact also specifies that the hospital will not implement new technology that undermines RN professional judgment, and that it will be subject to review by the RNs’ patient care committee. The rapid spread of expensive technology in healthcare, from electronic medical records to robotics, has led to concerns about the quality of care in hospitals around the country.
Pay gains and holding the line on health coverage
All SLUH RNs will receive across the board pay increases of between 8.5 and 9.5 percent over the three years of the pact. Wage rates will be improved as well for new hires in a contract that nurses expect will greatly enhance recruitment as well as retention of RNs at the hospital. Nurses who work holidays will be paid at time and a half their regular pay rate, a significant step beyond most St. Louis area pay schedules.
Another critical achievement for the RNs was holding the line on health coverage costs. At a time when employers, including many in the healthcare industry, are shifting more out-of-pocket costs for health benefits to employees, SLUH RNs won't see additional deductibles, co-pays, or pay a higher percentage of their premiums.
Among the other firsts for the SLUH nurses are provisions to protect their workplace rights, including greater advance notice of work schedules, improved procedures for layoffs and schedule cancellations, and just cause language and a grievance process to assure fair treatment in the event of discipline.