NEW YORK NURSE: January/February 2012
by John A. Hamelin
Registered nurses at Benedictine Hospital in Kingston approved their first-ever NYSNA contract on Dec. 22, the conclusion of a three-year struggle to achieve an agreement to help provide stable and fair working conditions, and protect their workplace rights.
The nurses first elected NYSNA as their collective bargaining representative in November 2008. Negotiations started in December that year. Following a June, 2011 vote reaffirming their choice of NYSNA for professional representation, ongoing negotiations concluded with a tentative agreement being reached on Dec. 14. The ratification vote came on Dec. 22, three years to the day they began their work toward this significant accomplishment.
By all accounts, the journey to this contract was an extremely challenging and difficult one. Ultimately, the ability of a strong core of nursing committee leaders to support successful communication between the nurses, management and NYSNA representatives led the Benedictine RNs to achieve this success.
“Initial agreements can be difficult to negotiate, and this one was especially so…” said Thomas Darby, Nurses Association negotiator. “Management used one stall tactic after another and even tried to decertify the union last year. Still, the nurses won…”.
The agreement provides significant benefit protections, a grievance procedure that offers real job security and work rule equity for all registered nurses. In addition, the contract offers adequate staffing ratio goals and rights for the bargaining unit to re-address wage negotiations and parity for each nurse, based on each individual’s education, certifications and work schedules.
Research shows the level of patient care is better at hospitals in which RNs are represented for collective bargaining. Benedictine’s NYSNA members look forward to working together toward achieving the highest levels of care. They also hope this agreement results in a successful conclusion to contract negotiations for their colleagues at Nistel, Inc. Talks there have been underway since June 2009.
“Through their persistence Benedictine nurses have achieved an initial contract that they can all be proud of,” Darby said. “It lays the foundation for many improvements in years to come.”