2005-09-23 / Community

PHC Nurses Ratify New Contract, Avert Strike

Registered nurses at Peninsula Hospital Monday ratified a new four-year contract that maintains health insurance benefits, improves RN staffing, adds to experience pay, and increases base salaries, according to a spokesperson for the union that represents the nurses.

The 150 nurses, who are represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), believe the agreement will help the hospital stay solvent and keep health care viable in the Rockaways. The agreement averted a possible strike. Frustrated after a year and a half with the slow pace of negotiations, the nurses had voted July 14 to authorize a strike if further progress had not been made. A tentative agreement was reached during negotiations on Sept. 12.

Contract highlights include:

Health and retiree benefits - The RNs will retain their current health insurance coverage through the NYSNA Benefits Plan. An option to buy back sick leave was restored. The RNs won the right to reopen negotiations for a pension plan and retiree health benefits, with the right to strike if necessary, in January 2007.

Staffing - RN-to-patient staffing ratios, along with a timeline for their implementation, will be established by a joint labor-management committee. A nine-month pilot program to make an alternative work schedule available throughout the hospital will also be introduced. Per diems will now be included in the NYSNA contract.

Compensation - RNs will receive increases in base salaries of 7% in the first year, 3.5% in the second year, and 4.5% in the final year, for a total of 15.2% over the life of the contract. Five steps will be added to the top of the experience scale, while pay for the first five steps of the scale will also increase. As a result, an RN with 30 or more years of experience will be eligible for an additional $30,000. “These negotiations were difficult and the nurses were ready to strike,” said Maria Flores, RN, nursing representative for NYSNA. “But our nurses are professionals. They’re patient advocates, and they understood the hospital was in financial straits. We look forward to reopening talks in 2007 to get our nurses the retiree health benefits and pension plan they deserve.”

The new contract is retroactive to May 1, 2004 and expires April 30, 2008.

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