Bargaining update: G1 nurses heard; improvements to ED incentive; administration gives some counter proposals, but dodges key issues; safety and security still at issue

G1 Nurses Win Pause on Disastrous Admission Change

As shared in the last bargaining update, a change was implemented to G1 Psych in September which led to patients being admitted without necessary information. This has included patients’ names, as well as medical information and legal paperwork necessary to hold them.

After confronting administration with several examples of unsafe patient care conditions created by this change, including correcting several misconceptions administration had about what was actually happening on the unit, we won an agreement to pause the new process until G1 nurses could meet with administrators to discuss a process for safer admissions.

Like with everything, it’s clear that when nurses are actually involved in the planning, the outcome will be better.

Improvement to ED incentive, but more work to be done

Yesterday morning (11/29), administration contacted us seeking to implement an incentive program to fill staffing holes in the ED. They planned to offer a bonus of $1200 (in addition to current SIP and OT rules) to any nurse who picked up at least 48 hours within four weeks. 

Nurses in the ED have been stretched impossibly thin and the unit has been bleeding staff as burnout is at an all-time high. In the last year alone, the ED has lost over 30% of its permanent staff. No incentive program is going to fix that, when low base rates and chronically short staffing mean RGH cannot recruit and retain nurses. After surveying 42 ED nurses within 24 hours, the bargaining committee heard overwhelmingly that the bonus was not enough for the vast majority to pick up sufficient hours to fill the holes. Concerns were also raised about nurses who might become sick in the middle of the program and get no bonus despite working most of the hours.

In bargaining today, we won two improvements:

  • Raising the total amount from $1200 to $1500 (moving the effective hourly bonus from $25/hour to $31.25/hour).
  • Prorating the bonus by total hours picked up in the four week period, so the potential bonuses would be $375 for 12 hours picked up, $750 for 24 hours, $1125 for 36 hours, and $1500 for 48 hours.

This was the most the administration was willing to move on, so we accepted the improved program with the caveat that, from what we were hearing from ED nurses, it was unlikely to succeed in filling all the holes. We believe much more needs to be done, but hope that administration is starting to see that the solution is to put more resources into staff nurses, rather than (unsuccessfully) trying to fill holes with APPs or travelers.

First Tentative Agreement reached, but responses on wages, staffing, benefits not yet forthcoming

We reached an agreement with administration on a contract article regarding probationary periods for new hires, and received some of their counter proposals on issues like non-discrimination and management’s rights, but pressed them on when they would respond on key issues like wages and staffing. They were non-committal on a timeline.

Over the course of around a month, our volunteer bargaining committee of 110 nurses put in many hours of work to draft these proposals. Administration is being paid to do this work and we are now nearing two months since our first session, when we presented the majority of our proposals, and we have received comparatively few counters. We expressed a willingness to give them the month of December to work on it if that’s what they need, but we are expecting substantive responses in early January.

Safety and security still an issue

In the wake of recent violence in the ED, we once more raised the issue of the metal detectors. The phrase “there is only one metal detector” was used multiple times, while unspecified “other technology” was invoked as a potential future option.

We also raised the troubling pattern of car break-ins in the garages–at least 7 in the last week and a half. The petition we delivered to administration included a call for more security in the parking lots, but they have so far just said that there will be new cameras at some point in the future. Members of the bargaining committee heard from one nurse who was alerted by her credit card company that her cards were being maxed out while she was on shift!

Our coworker Katie Hill, a G1 tech currently in nursing school, experienced a break-in and had this to say: “All my school supplies were stolen from my car while I was working. I wanted to be an RGH nurse after I graduate, but it’s not even safe to park at the hospital.”

We deeply appreciate our coworkers in security, but we know they’re not being given the resources they need, either. The situation in the hospital and the parking areas is untenable, and we need concrete solutions, not a list of everything administration claims to have done in the last three years (which clearly hasn’t been sufficient), as was presented to us today.

RGH recruiting international nurses

Many of us have heard that RGH may be recruiting international nurses. Today, we asked administration if they could confirm. We were deeply concerned that they might be pursuing the kinds of exploitative “international travel” contracts that caused the NY Attorney General to go after Albany Med for human trafficking last year.

Administration assured us that they were not pursuing such contracts, but that they were recruiting nurses to immigrate to Rochester to become employed as normal, permanent staff nurses. 

“Assuming that these nurses are treated as equal staff members, we welcome the prospect of more nurses joining our community and working beside us on our units and in our union to fight for the kinds of conditions that will incentivize nurses to come to RGH and stay, regardless of where they come from.” —Lauren Smith, OR

“We’re all very happy to finally get a seat at the table, which is what we’ve been asking for from the beginning.” –Abby Rice, G1

“This is better than what they were offering before, but RGH needs to invest more in staff nurses long-term if we’re going to solve this crisis. The focus should be on retention of experienced staff nurses to handle critical situations. Every month, more staff members are leaving due to the demanding workplace with inadequate compensation.” –Katie Courtney, ED

RUNAP to accept Rochester “Labor Advocate of the Year” award

The Rochester Labor Council, a federation of area unions, is awarding the RUNAP nurses with their “Labor Advocate of the Year” award, for our work this year in advocating to improve working conditions in our community. The award will be presented next Wednesday 12/7. Contact Patrick Coyle (585-451-3342) if you’re interested in attending!