NEW YORK NURSE: March 2008
by Mark Genovese
Are RNs getting paid a fair wage for a full day’s work?
To their dismay, RNs at some NYSNA bargaining units are finding that automated attendance and payroll systems that were intended to ensure accuracy haven’t issued them correct paychecks. Reports included shifts missing from the records, differentials and overtime not being applied, and discrepancies in time banks.
In some cases, this has been the result of mistakes in programming or “bugs” in the system that weren’t worked out before implementation. In one case, the problem was deliberate, as the employer was caught manipulating data.
NYSNA has filed grievances over numerous payroll discrepancies at the Westchester County Healthcare Corporation.
“The system wasn’t programmed to meet all the conditions of the nurses’ contract,” said Kevin Smith, NYSNA nursing representative. “The system omitted differentials for shift and education and wasn’t paying out overtime properly.” NYSNA continues to meet regularly with representatives from the medical center and payroll system to resolve problems.
At Flushing Hospital Medical Center, NYSNA filed a class-action grievance over a lack of payroll documentation. RNs couldn’t obtain access to their records, nor were their concerns being addressed by hospital management. NYSNA won the case in arbitration.
Meanwhile, NYSNA has asked the State Department of Labor to investigate a case involving nurses at Prison Health Services/Rikers Island. “After a probe of our own, we discovered that management had been editing RNs’ electronic records for years,” said Mary Lou Cahill, NYSNA nursing representative. This case is also in arbitration.
Introduction of such a system can be an invitation to increase tension between labor and management. This is what happened at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. “There’s been a tremendous amount of goodwill lost with management,” said Michael Hertz, NYSNA nursing representative.
Montefiore’s system allows only a four-minute grace period at the start and end of a tour for RNs to log in and out. Bad traffic and other unexpected delays easily caused RNs to miss this window, which led to an increase in disciplines. Meticulous tracking also increased recorded overtime, which put pressure on unit managers to hustle RNs out the door at the end of their tours. NYSNA told RNs not to punch out before their work is done because this could leave them vulnerable to litigation and take away any incentive for management to staff properly.
NYSNA members who are represented for collective bargaining have the right to negotiate over the impact of implementation of time and attendance systems. When RNs receive word that such a system is to be put into place, they should contact their NYSNA representatives immediately and develop a strategy to protect their rights, insisting that:
Then it’s up to members to review their time balances to ensure management lives up to its end of the bargain.
NYSNA members should know they’re not alone in dealing with such issues. Nurses at the Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland have been fighting similar problems for nearly a year, while the Irish Health Service spent eight years and 12 times more money than budgeted before ending its attempt to install such software.
“As with any technology it has its advantages and can be useful to a union,” said NYSNA Nursing Representative Karen May. “It makes it easy to verify when an RN works overtime. But nurses feel their professionalism is demeaned by clocking in and out and being disciplined for being minutes late. Yet, sometimes nurses need to stay after their shifts end to meet their patients’ needs. You can’t blame them for being upset.”