Ellis Medicine and Bellevue Woman’s Center RNs Vote ‘YES’ on Historic Contract Settlement

For Immediate Release: September 4, 2015

RNs at Ellis and Bellevue win groundbreaking victory for safe staffing; Wage increases make them among highest paid in the Capital Region

SCHENECTADY, NY—In a major win for front-line nurses represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) at Ellis Medicine in Schenectady and Bellevue Woman’s Center in Niskayuna, contracts covering more than 700 registered nurses have been settled, the nurses announced today.

There were significant wage increases for nurses covering four years and on a key issue—safe nurse-to-patient staffing—nurses achieved a historic victory, as new FTEs (full-time equivalent nurses) will be hired immediately at Ellis Medicine; float pool nurses will be used to cover sick days and other episodic absences; and a nurses resource ‘rapid response’ team will be created to allows nurses to get immediate relief from unsafe staffing situations that would happen in any unit of the hospital.

For Bellevue RNs, this will be their first union contract. “Hundreds of us worked together in achieving these contracts, speaking in one voice on key issues,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN & NYSNA President. “The unity of purpose and determination to better conditions and protect patients was extraordinary.”

The central focus for NYSNA’s demand was the need to add more nurses and enforce staffing ratios and grids. Staffing ratios/grids were contained in clauses in the Ellis nurses’ expired contracts but unfulfilled staffing ratios/grids were common. These shortfalls will be addressed by the new contracts.

"The RNs at Ellis Medicine and Bellevue Woman’s Center have sent management a very clear message about how serious we are about safe staffing," said Patricia Donahue, a post-anesthesia care unit nurse at Ellis Hospital for 34 years. “Safe patient care is a basic human right and all nurses should have a say in how patient care is delivered. This contract and its historic safe staffing guidelines give nurses the voice they need to advocate for their patients.”

In a significant win for safer staffing, each contract will include the creation of a nursing resource team (NRT) that allows nurses to get immediate relief from unsafe staffing situations in their units during their shift. The new FTEs at Ellis will be directed to hospital units to fulfill those staffing ratios/grids in units most affected.

Also, in order to enforce the staffing ratios/grids and other issues, unit-based staffing committees inside the hospitals are to be formed with enhanced mechanisms for addressing contract provisions and optimal staffing guidelines for each unit.

"What a win for our patients!" said Catherine Lucas, a registered nurse at Ellis Medicine for 37 years. "The new contract is going to make people's lives healthier and better, every nurse at Ellis Medicine and Bellevue Woman’s Center cares deeply about giving our patients safe and quality care. This contract ensures that when you come to the hospital, Capital Region patients get the gold-star care that they deserve!”

Ellis and Bellevue nurses also won immediate wage increases of 15-18%, with increases totaling 24-27% over the four-year deal, making them among the highest paid in the region. For example, a 2-year RN at Bellevue who makes a base wage of $23.45 per hour will see an increase to $27 an hour, an immediate wage raise of 15%. In Ellis, a 16-year RN making a base wage of $33.32 an hour will see an increase to $39 an hour, an immediate wage raise of 17%.

This contract comes on the heels of a recent report stating that Capital Region wages trail behind their national counterparts.

Vickie Decker, a registered nurse at Bellevue Woman’s Center said, “This is a very good contract that will set a new wage standard for nurses in the Capital Region. In addition to wage increases for all members, this contract also contains major healthcare gains. This contract is something to be very proud of.”

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The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 37,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, please visit our website at www.nysna.org

About NYSNA

We are 40,000 nurses working together to win safe staffing, keep hospitals open for care, stop the Wall Street attack on our patients, and win healthcare for all.