Nurses Welcome First Contract at Two South Florida Hospitals
Palmetto General and Florida Medical Center
Celebrate Patient Staffing, Economic Improvements
South Florida registered nurses this week are celebrating their first ever collective bargaining agreement at Florida Medical Center (FMC) and Palmetto General Hospital, with terms they say will improve patient care as well as secure economic gains for nurses and their families.
The RNs are members of National Nurses Organizing Committee-Florida, state affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU), the largest U.S. organization of RNs, which represents 800 RNs at the two Tenet Healthcare hospitals. Florida Medical Center RNs voted overwhelmingly in membership meetings Sunday and Monday to ratify their pact. Palmetto RNs will vote later this week.
FMC RNs celebrate contract ratification
Palmetto RNs on news of their agreement
Terms of the pacts are similar. Patient care improvements include assurances that individual patient illness will be a key factor in determining staffing, limits on the assignment of RNs to work in hospital areas outside their clinical specialty, and a commitment from the hospital to provide lift equipment and safe patient handling practices to curb patient falls and accidents.
Additionally, the RNs won a ban on mandatory overtime, except in emergency conditions, contract protections for exercising their professional right to advocate for patients, and establishment of a Professional Practice Committee of direct care RNs, elected by their colleagues to meet with management to address patient issues.
“We formed a union with NNOC-Florida because we wanted to make staffing improvements for ourselves and our patients,” said Florida Medical Center RN Angela Brown. “Now that we have settled our first contract, I am very proud that we were able to achieve safe lifting protections. This will help prevent injuries to nurses and patients.
“This is much needed,” Palmetto RN Sharik Eijan, said. “We waited so long to have a voice to be able to
improve care for our patients at Palmetto General Hospital. The patients need us to be able to say what is needed for proper care. We were at this for a long time. We got our contract.”
All RNs will earn across the board immediate pay increases of 3 percent up to 6.2 percent over the next two years of the three year agreement, plus additional increases based on years of experience.
The pacts stipulate no reduction in health coverage for the RNs, and a guarantee that all RNs will be able to take rest breaks during their shift. It establishes seniority rights for filling vacancies, and union grievance and just cause protections in the event of employer discipline.
FMC and Palmetto RNs voted to join NNOC-Florida in 2011, with contract talks occupying much of 2012.
“It was a long road but worth it to get the guarantees and protections our patients deserve," said FMC RN Bill Minger.