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Washington State Nurses Association Contract Negotiation Updates

The Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) represents registered nurses at the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC). The current collective bargaining agreement between UW and WSNA expires on June 30, 2015. The parties began negotiations for a successor agreement on May 12, 2015.

Andrew Berg
Assistant Director, UW Labor Relations (Lead Negotiator)
Carla Brannen
Nurse Manager, Operating Room, UWMC
Becky Hammontree
HR Consultant, UWMC
Leslie Hampton
Associate Director, Professional Development, PFCC, Patient Care Services, UWMC
A.J. Hartman
Communications Specialist, UW Labor Relations
Anthea Kuah
Senior Compensation and Labor Relations Analyst, HR Compensation
Dorthea McMahon
Interim Associate Director, PCS Central Resources and Staffing, UWMC
Grace Parker
Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Associate Administrator, UWMC
Christine Sampson
Assistant Administrator, Women and Infant Services, Patient Care Services, UWMC
Patty Van Velsir
HR Consultant, UWMC

Negotiations Recap for May 21, 2015

This recap details the third session for the renewal of the collective bargaining agreement between the UW and WSNA.

Compensation Discussion

Milliman Study – UW presented an analysis of how compensation for UWMC nurses compares to that of nurses in UWMC's market of competing organizations, including Swedish, Valley, MultiCare, and Virginia Mason. The analysis was derived from a classified staff salary study conducted for UW HR by third-party compensation experts at Milliman in fall of 2014.

Philosophy – UW HR's general compensation philosophy for the broader University is to pay at 80 percent of the market median, largely because UW's robust benefits package exceeds the market. However, for nurses and other healthcare workers UW targets to pay at 90 percent of the market median. The market median, or "market," for UW is the point at which half of UW's comparators pay below UW and half pay above.

Findings – UWMC nurses are paid at 96.5 percent of the market. UW pointed out that this exceeds the target of paying at 90 percent of the market, and does not factor in UW's above-market benefits such as healthcare and retirement.

UW Proposals

Association Membership – UW declined WSNA's proposal to require all UWMC nurses to join the union as dues-paying members, in favor of maintaining current contract language.

Orientation – UW accepted WSNA's proposal to increase the time guaranteed for the union's new-hire orientation from 15 minutes to 30. To address WSNA's concern that transferring nurses receive the same orientation as provided for new-hires, UW proposed broadening the nurse orientation language such that it would apply to new-hires and transfers. UW's proposal would allow but not require nurses who have already completed new employee orientation to attend.

Probationary Period – UW accepted WSNA's concept for nurses to receive an evaluation halfway through the probationary period, voicing support for doing so through existing mechanisms rather than the union's stipulated written and verbal evaluations.

Wage Increases – UW put forth an initial wage proposal comprised of a 1 percent general wage increase effective July 1, 2015, and a 1 percent general wage increase effective July 1, 2016. UW declined WSNA's proposal to add new steps 30, 31, and 32 to the top of the pay range.

Pay Premiums – UW responded to WSNA's proposed expansions to several pay premiums and differentials, including:

  • Shift Premium: UW declined WSNA's proposal to increase the second (evening) and third (night) shift differential by $0.25 per hour each, explaining that the current amount is competitive with the market.
  • Standby Premium: UW accepted WSNA's proposal to increase the guaranteed minimum work period to three hours at a time and one-half rate to nurses when called in from standby.
  • Variable Standby Rate: UW declined WSNA's proposal to increase the standby rate to $5 per hour after 20 standby hours in a week, as well as the proposal for standby pay to continue atop the time and one-half premium rate already awarded when nurses are called in from standby status. UW explained that it did not find this to be a common practice at comparable organizations.
  • Call Back Premium: UW accepted WSNA's proposal to increase to three hours the minimum work period guaranteed at a time and one-half rate to nurses when called back.
  • Certification Premium: UW accepted WSNA's proposal to increase the premium for eligible nurses certified in their area of specialty practice from $1 to $1.25 per hour.
  • ECLS Nurse Premium: UW maintained its proposal for nurses to receive $4 per hour for time designated as Extra-Corporeal Life Support ("ECLS") nurses.
  • Resource Vascular Access Team Premium: In response to WSNA's proposal, UW proposed that receive $2 per hour for time designated as Resource Vascular Access Team nurses.

Parking – UW declined WSNA's proposal for UW to provide nurses with free parking in remote parking lots with free shuttle service to UWMC.

Leave Accruals – Due to payroll system limitations, UW declined WSNA's proposal for nurse vacation and sick leave accrual to be determined by actual hours worked rather than a nurse's scheduled FTE (full-time equivalent).

Vacation Leave – UW declined WSNA's proposal for UW to grant vacation requests totaling at least 90 percent of the aggregate accrued annual leave of the bargaining unit for that calendar year. Instead, UW proposed language committing management to work with nurses who are unable to take their desired amount of vacation for the year to attempt to grant vacation requests during non-peak time periods.

Citing state payroll rules, UW declined WSNA's proposal for nurses to receive a payout for accrued vacation hours in excess of 240 on their anniversary date, rather than losing such accruals.

Faith/Conscience Day – UW put forth amendments to its proposal to grant up to two workdays off per calendar year for reason of faith or conscience (per WAC 82-56), clarifying that requests for such leave will follow normal departmental leave request processes.

WSNA Proposals

Rosters – WSNA proposed adding employee shift, home phone, cell phone, and unit to the list of employee data that UW reports to the union on a monthly basis. UW explained that it is amenable to expanding reporting according to system capabilities, particularly once the UW transitions to a new HR/payroll system.

Successorship – WSNA proposed language detailing the role and rights of the union in the event that UW was to subcontract some of its operations to another party. WSNA's language outlined notification requirements, and would provide that the new employer either assume the UWMC WSNA contract or alternately add equivalent wages and benefits.

Next Steps

The next UW-WSNA bargaining session is scheduled for June 4.


Negotiations Recap for May 15, 2015

This recap details the second session for the renewal of the collective bargaining agreement between the UW and WSNA.

Discussion of Proposals

The parties spent much of the session discussing and clarifying the proposals delivered to date. The parties also discussed outstanding elements of WSNA's request for information.

Tuition Exemption Discussion

Administration of Tuition Exemption – In response to WSNA's desire to discuss the contract's tuition exemption section, Robert Rhodes from the UW Registrar's office attended to explain the UW's tuition exemption program. Tuition exemption is administered through the UW Registrar's office but policy changes are handled through the UW Board of Regents.

Fee-based Programs – The union voiced concern that several courses, including the Nurse Practitioner's program, no longer qualify for tuition exemption. UW explained that some programs are "tuition-based," which receive state funding, and some are "fee-based," or self-sustaining. Courses in fee-based programs do not qualify for tuition exemption. While several UW programs have moved to a fee-based model, many remain state-funded.

Next Steps

The next UW-WSNA bargaining session is scheduled for May 21.


Negotiations Recap for May 12, 2015

This recap details the first session for the renewal of the collective bargaining agreement between the UW and WSNA.

Introductions and Bargaining Expectations

The parties agreed to several expectations for bargaining, including that all initial proposals will be delivered by the third session.

Release Time for Bargaining — The parties agreed that UW will provide up to eight hours of paid release time for WSNA's bargaining team for the first eight sessions. WSNA circulated a sign-in sheet in order to help facilitate payment of release time to employees.

WSNA Proposals

Mandatory Union Membership — WSNA proposed a union shop provision, whereby all UWMC nurses would be required to join the union as dues-paying members within 31 days of hire or changing from per diem to classified staff.

General Wage Increases — WSNA proposed a 7 percent general wage increase effective July 1, 2015, and a 6 percent general wage increase effective July 1, 2016.

New Pay Steps — WSNA proposed adding new steps 30, 31, and 32 to the top of the pay range. Step 30 would provide for a 3 percent increase from step 29, step 31 would have no increase over 30, and step 32 would provide for a 3 percent increase from step 31.

Pay Premiums — WSNA proposed expansions to several pay premiums and differentials, including:

  • Shift Premium: Increase the second (evening) shift premium from $2.50 to $2.75 per hour, and the third (night) shift differential from $4.25 to $4.50 per hour.
  • Standby Premium: After 20 hours in standby status in a week at the current rate of $4 per hour, the rate would be increased to $5 per hour. The standby premium would be paid atop the premium rate already awarded (time and one-half) when nurses are called in from standby status, and that the minimum work period guaranteed in such cases be increased from two and one-half to three hours.
  • Call Back Premium: The minimum work period guaranteed to nurses at a time and one-half rate when called back would be increased from two and one-half to three hours.
  • Certification Premium: Increase the premium for eligible nurses certified in their area of specialty practice from $1 to $1.25 per hour.
  • Resource Vascular Access Team Premium: Nurses would receive $4 per hour for time designated as Resource Vascular Access Team nurses.

Parking — WSNA proposed that UW provide nurses with free parking in remote parking lots with free shuttle service to UWMC.

Staffing — WSNA proposed language memorializing the parties' commitment to safe staffing levels, safe patient care, and the health and safety of nurses. WSNA proposed allowing union representatives to be present at all staffing committee meetings, and proposed a prohibition on changes to staffing matrices or minimums without union agreement.

Orientation — WSNA proposed increasing the time guaranteed for the union's new-hire orientation from 15 minutes to 30, and that nurses transferring into the bargaining unit receive the same orientation and materials as provided for new-hires.

Probationary Period — WSNA proposed that nurses receive an oral and written evaluation halfway through their six month probationary period.

Rest Breaks — WSNA proposed the consolidation of several contractual and settlement documents between the parties relating to rest breaks into new contract language.

Tuition Exemption — WSNA voiced its intent to open the contract's tuition exemption section.

Leave Accruals — WSNA proposed that nurse vacation and sick leave accrual be determined by actual hours worked rather than a nurse's scheduled FTE (full-time equivalent), up to a 1.0 FTE.

Vacation Leave — WSNA proposed that UW make a good faith effort to grant vacation requests totaling at least 90 percent of the aggregate accrued annual leave of the bargaining unit for that calendar year.

The union also proposed that nurses receive a payout for all accrued vacation hours in excess of 240 on their anniversary date, rather than losing such accruals.

Duration — WSNA proposed a two year contract term, to expire on June 30, 2017.

UW Finance Presentation

Pam Palagi Assistant Administrator for UWMC Finance delivered a presentation reviewing UWMC's financial situation and summarizing national and regional healthcare industry, including trends and policy impacts.

  • National Trends: From 2013-2023 health purchasers' costs are projected to grow 1.1 percent faster than the US gross domestic product (GDP), and the healthcare sector's share of the GDP is expected to rise to 19.3 percent in 2023. With healthcare reform hospitals and providers are responsible for providing increased coverage for an increased demographic.
  • UW Medicine: UWMC has seen a shift in payer mix, with Medicare and Medicaid constituting 55 percent of the commercial payer mix. UW Medicine relies on add-on payments to fund teaching, research, and the provision of clinical care, though the average cost associated with Medicare and Medicaid patients still exceeds the amount for which the UW is reimbursed.
  • Credit Ratings: Credit rating agencies have given a negative outlook on the healthcare industry for two years in row. In several important metrics, UWMC is lagging behind the established medians for A-rated organizations. UWMC's target margin for this year is just under 2 percent. In comparison, Overlake's March 2015 year-to-date margin was 5.6 percent, and Multicare's fiscal year 2014 total margin was 11.4 percent.

UW Proposals

Work Period — UW proposed limiting the work period options (for purposes of overtime eligibility) to either 40 hours in a seven day period or 80 hours in a 14 day period. UW explained that scheduling work periods over 160 hours can contribute to excessive stretches of work and contribute to nurse fatigue. UW clarified that it is not proposing to eliminate self-scheduling.

Overtime — Consistent with current practice since Kronos implementation, UW proposed that overtime go into effect if eight minutes or more are worked after the end of the scheduled shift (currently 15 minutes), and be calculated to the nearest quarter of an hour (currently 30 minutes).

Time Paid but not Worked — UW proposed language whereby an employee would not earn overtime for hours worked over their scheduled shift if on the day immediately before or after they took sick leave for a period of time equal to or greater than the extra time worked.

Rest Between Shifts — UW proposed standardizing the rest between shifts requirement, such that regardless of shift length, nurses not receiving unbroken rest 10- and one-half hours before the start of their next regularly scheduled shift would trigger the rest between shift premium.

Low Census — UW proposed enabling UWMC to implement reduced staffing during temporary periods of low patient census. Provisions included:

  • Low Census Rotation: UW would work to rotate low census equitably among nurses on a shift starting with the least senior nurse first, provided that skills, ability and availability are deemed equal. Travelers and agency nurses would be sent home first, and then volunteers would be requested.
  • Covering Low Census Hours: Nurses could use annual leave to cover hours lost due to low census, and nurses without accrued vacation time would not be required to go home. Low census requests on holidays would be allowed on the basis of a unit-wide lottery, provided that patient care is not compromised.

On Call — UW proposed mandatory on-call language based on other WSNA contracts, including:

  • Mandatory On-call: Scheduled call would be mandatory for all units on which call is needed to meet patient care needs. Call would be assigned on a voluntary basis, and if there are not enough volunteers, call would be assigned on an equitable rotational basis.
  • Acute Care Units: UWMC would assess whether the current staffing model in each acute care unit is meeting the unit's staffing needs. If the employer determines that staffing needs are not being met, UWMC management would meet to pursue alternative methods of doing so. If these efforts are not successful within three months thereafter, the employer would notify the union and offer to bargain the impacts of an on-call system in the unit.
  • On-call Pay: Nurses would still be paid $4.00 per hour for time spent on call. In addition to on-call pay, nurses called to work would be paid at the overtime rate for all hours worked (with a guaranteed minimum of three hours).

Float Premium — UW proposed that newly hired nurses become eligible for float premium upon successful completion of orientation rather than upon hire, to provide improved equity until fully trained to float.

ECLS Nurse Premium — UW proposed that nurses receive $4 per hour for time designated as Extra-Corporeal Life Support ("ECLS") nurses.

Vacation Leave — UW proposed language establishing that vacation requests would be responded to within two weeks of that request, or as soon as reasonably practical.

Faith/Conscience Day — UW proposed language to codify WAC 82-56, whereby leave without pay would be granted for up to two workdays per calendar year for reason of faith or conscience. Such requests may only be denied if the employee's absence would create undue hardship (per WAC 82-56) or the employee is necessary to maintain public safety.

Leaves of Absence — UW proposed reordering certain provisions of this article to better align with how it is utilized.

Leave Due to Child Care Emergencies — UW proposed adding language to clarify that a child's illness is not covered by this section, and proposed that the use of vacation, sick and leave without pay under this provision be limited to three days total per calendar year.

Sick Leave — UW proposed language memorializing the parties' do not condone abuse of sick leave or unauthorized leave without pay, and clarifying that patterns of misuse or abuse of sick leave will result in corrective action, up to and including dismissal.

Next Steps

The next UW-WSNA bargaining session is scheduled for May 15.