Ventura County RNs Approve New Agreement
Call Economic Gains Step in the Right Direction
To Helping County Retain, Recruit New RNs
Registered nurses and healthcare workers in Ventura County health facilities have approved a new tentative collective bargaining agreement that they call a first step to help retain experienced RNs and recruit new nurses that is essential to tackling a persistent nursing shortage for county health facilities.
The three-year agreement with the Ventura County Health Agency covers 600 regular and part-time healthcare providers who are represented by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.
RNs, Public Health Nurses, LVNs and Licensed Mental Health Technicians, who work at the Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, Santa Paula Hospital in Santa Paula, and in the ambulatory care, behavioral health and public health clinics throughout the county are covered by the agreement.
At the heart of the pact is adoption of a guaranteed wage scale, to assure pay is not tied to manager whim but based on years of service. The nurses note it will help the county bring the RNs and other health employees into pay alignment with other county workers and with those who work in the private sector.
"This agreement is a step in the right direction - it lays the foundation for addressing the nursing shortage in Ventura County," said Michele Mueller, RN, at Ventura County Medical Center, and a member of the bargaining team.
Since the previous contract expired in January 2013, nurses and technical staff have raised public awareness of how unsafe patient conditions have contributed to the nursing shortage in Ventura County. New graduate and on-call nurses come to the county to get training and then leave to work elsewhere.
"I'm incredibly proud of how all of the public health nurses stood behind the acute care nurses and the rest of the employees covered by this agreement. We know that improving the situation in acute care settings ripples out to the community and impacts our patients, whatever setting we are working in," said Glenys Wilbur, RN a 39-year nursing veteran who works at California Children's Services in Oxnard.
Next, the Ventura nurses say they will push to get a similar settlement for some 175 additional per diem RNs, LVNs and psych techs, all who are hired without benefits, who have a separate contract. The county was unwilling to negotiate the two agreements together.
"We will know the county is serious about reducing this shortage and improving patient safety if they continue in this direction in their negotiations with the per-diem nurses," Mueller said.
Highlights of the agreement include:
- Establishes the first wage scale for county healthcare employees
- A 5 percent wage across the board increase over the next three years
- Full credit, phased in by July 1, 2016, for initial placement on the wage grid for all years of experience working as an RN, including foreign work service as an RN.