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Washington State Nurses Association (2012-2013) Contract Negotiation Updates

In April of 2012, University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) management and the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) agreed to terms for the 2012-2013 contract year of the parties' collective bargaining agreement, which expires on June 30, 2013. Contract negotiations for a successor agreement are now underway. WSNA represents more than 1400 registered nurses at UWMC.

Return to the Current Negotiation Updates

Negotiations Recap - April 23, 2012

This recap details the ninth round of bargaining between the UWMC and WSNA, and the third session facilitated by a Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) appointed mediator.

Tentative Final Agreement

UWMC and WSNA reached the following tentative final agreement, which both parties will recommend to their constituents for approval and ratification:

Contract Term
A one-year contract duration, from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013.
BSN Premium Pay
UWMC will award a $1 per hour pay-premium for nurses holding a BSN or higher nursing degree, effective October 1, 2012.
Harborview "Me-Too"
UWMC agrees to match for its nurses any newly negotiated pay increases received by SEIU 1199NW-represented nurses at Harborview Medical Center, affecting the pay range, pay steps, or across-the-board raises that take effect during the contract term.
Sick Leave Notification
UWMC nurses must notify management at least two hours before the beginning of their shift if they are unable to report for duty as scheduled. Failure to do so could result in the loss of paid sick leave for that day.

If ratified, all other issues and proposals will be withdrawn by both parties, and everything else in the contract will remain as it was before.

UWMC and WSNA will now await a response from their respective constituents.

Negotiations Recap - March 30, 2012

This recap details the eighth round of bargaining and the second session facilitated by a Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) appointed mediator.

UWMC began by noting that its state funding remains unresolved, as the Legislature is still in session. The economic downturn creates a precarious financial situation for many hospitals in the region. In budgeting for the 2013 fiscal year, UWMC is confronted with a minimum $30 million gap to close in operating costs.

UWMC has seen erosion in its payer mix, meaning fewer patients are commercially insured and more are either uninsured or supported by Medicaid. The change in payer mix is a double hit to UWMC's financial condition, as the cost of care exceeds the patients' ability to pay.

To make it safe to negotiate, UWMC and WSNA exchanged some hypothetical proposals through the mediator. These "what if" proposals allow both parties to be creative in exploring settlement options without committing either side to a fixed position.

UWMC "What If" Proposals

UWMC suggested a compromise package for a one-year agreement through the mediator, including:

BSN Premium Pay
UWMC would compensate nurses holding a BSN or higher nursing degree (such as an MN or MSN), paying them an extra $1 per hour premium. This is consistent with UWMC's strategic plan as an ANCC 'Magnet' hospital, which includes its goal of 80% of UWMC nurses holding a BSN by 2015.
Filling in Waiting Steps on the RN Wage Scale
UWMC would agree to fill in the four "dead steps" L, M, Q, and R on the RN wage scale.
Sick Leave Notice
UWMC maintained its proposal to require that day-shift nurses call in a sickness-related absence two hours before the start of their scheduled shift, as is the policy for night-shift nurses.
Short Break Premium
UWMC upheld its proposal to align with its competitor hospitals on premium pay for shortened breaks, but offered to increase the proposed 10 hours off between shifts to 10 ½ hours off for all shift lines.
UWMC maintained its proposal to prorate the Rest Between Shift (Short Break) premium, so that the amount of time nurses are paid at the rate of time-and-one-half corresponds directly with the amount of time lost from their required between-shift rest period.
Mandatory Union Membership
UWMC did not agree with WSNA's proposal to require union membership for new hires, maintaining that it is each nurse's own professional decision to become a union member.
Innovative 4-Week Schedules
UWMC would agree to drop its proposal to move towards a 40-hour work period, and instead maintain the 28 day/160-hour scheduling option over the next year.

WSNA's Response

WSNA turned down the bulk of UWMC's hypothetical proposal package. While the union favored the additional financial benefits within, it still rejected a balanced approach to achieving compromise. The union remained steadfast on most of its initial provisions, including its proposal to make WSNA union membership mandatory for new hires, and some of UWMC's concessions were met with additional demands by WSNA.

UWMC explained that additional enhancements will be difficult to accommodate without some financial efficiencies included in the package.

The next UW/WSNA mediated session is scheduled for April 23, 2012.

Negotiations Recap - March 20, 2012

UWMC and WSNA began mediation on February 29, 2012 with a mediator appointed from the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral third party facilitates the discussion with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable settlement. A mediator can suggest compromises, but cannot order either party to agree to a specific proposal or contract settlement.

At the start of this first session, the mediator asked UWMC and WSNA to meet together to share their perspectives on why an agreement has not yet been reached and review outstanding proposals.

Scope of Negotiations

UWMC began negotiations with WSNA in the summer of 2011 for the second year of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which runs July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013. Instead of focusing on the final year of the current agreement, WSNA has presented a three-year proposal for wage and benefits.

UWMC has explained that it is not able to expand the scope of negotiations into the 2013- 15 biennium due to legislative uncertainty (proposed changes in state Medicaid's reimbursements, disproportionate share funding, and the possible elimination of Basic Health Plan, Disability Lifeline, Physician Supplemental Services Program, and the Safety Net Program) AND a high level of budget uncertainty (including changes in Medicare reimbursements, indirect medical education, and disproportionate share funding). In addition, UWMC anticipates that the 2013 implementation of the Health Benefit Exchange (part of heathcare reform) will bring a net revenue loss growing from $11.3 to $41.9 million over the first 3 years of the program.

UWMC also shared the state's decision to increase the employer share of the "benefits load rate" from 33.4% to 38.9%. Just to maintain the current benefits program for UWMC nurses, who comprise 35% of medical center payroll, adds $5.6 million more in operating costs.

WSNA proposes a three-year contract with annual 3% across-the-board raises plus two new top steps for the most senior nurses. The union also seeks increases to existing pay premiums and additional time off, at an annual additional cost exceeding $3.1 million.

UWMC has provided data showing that recent pay increases at other Puget Sound region medical centers have not been at or near the level WSNA is proposing.

Work Rule Proposals

UWMC shared with the mediator the following work rule proposals that have not yet been resolved through negotiations.

Advance Notification of Sick Leave
Standardize advanced notice for sick leave, requiring day shift nurses to give two hours notice, like their colleagues on evening and night shifts.
Shift Break Premium
Align with community standards of providing 10 or 12 hours off duty between shifts. At most hospitals, if a nurse receives less than the full amount of time off between shifts, the nurse will be paid overtime for shortfall in rest hours. UWMC nurses currently receive a full eight hours of overtime for any reduction in the rest allotment, as little as a half-hour.
Hours of Work
Changes in Shift Length: UWMC proposed removing contract language that specifies that all temporary or permanent changes in shift length be mutually agreed upon between individual nurses and their manager.
UWMC is not suggesting any change to article 7.1.1. that states, "The Medical Center will endeavor to assign nurses to shifts of their desired length and will attempt to restrict changing a nurse's shift length to those times when such change is mutually agreeable or is determined to be operationally necessary by the Medical Center."
40-Hour Work Week: UWMC has proposed moving to a 40-hour work period for overtime purposes, discontinuing use of the four-week work period because of the resulting operational challenges. A 40-hour- seven-day work week is the community standard, and will allow for more reliable and predictable scheduling. UWMC is not proposing to eliminate self-scheduling, or posting a four week schedule. Overtime Rounding Rule: UWMC has proposed moving to an eight minute rounding rule for overtime, which is already anticipated in the current contract with Kronos implementation.
On-Call Staffing: UWMC has proposed developing on-call rosters to manage unpredictable increases in patients coming to the emergency and maternity units. The proposal is consistent with Article 7 of the CBA and nurses would schedule on-call shifts as part of the self-scheduling process.
Re-open Sick Leave Article
UWMC has proposed designing an incentive to reduce unscheduled absences, in cooperation with the union.