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.
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.
UWMC and WSNA reached the following tentative final agreement, which both parties will recommend to their constituents for approval and ratification:
If ratified, all other issues and proposals will be withdrawn by both parties, and everything else in the contract will remain as it was before.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.
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 suggested a compromise package for a one-year agreement through the mediator, including:
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.
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.
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.
UWMC shared with the mediator the following work rule proposals that have not yet been resolved through negotiations.