Registered nurses at Providence Hospital won their first ever collective bargaining agreement in a tentative settlement late Monday night. Key provisions of the agreement, which must still be approved by the nurses in membership meetings Thursday and Friday, include important gains on safe staffing and a stronger voice for RNs in patient care decisions, guaranteed pay increases, and workplace protections. “From the beginning, this has always been about our ability to provide safe patient care. I am proud to say that Providence nurses have finally gained a voice in staffing and patient care,” says Donna Fleming-Cobey, a RN on an Intermediate Care Unit. She has worked at Providence for 18 years…
photo by Chris Garlock
The 400 Providence RNs are members of National Nurses Organizing Committee, an affiliate of the largest U.S. organization of nurses, National Nurses United. Providence Hospital is part of the Ascension Health hospital chain. “This is a significant achievement that will elevate standards for all District of Columbia RNs, and a testimony to the unity and perseverance of Providence RNs who fought so hard for patient safety and their own economic and workplace security,” said NNU Co-President Karen Higgins, RN.
“One of our primary goals has been to win a fair wage structure that rewards nurses for service so that we can recruit and retain nurses. I am happy to report that our new contract will ensure that nurses are fairly compensated for the care that we provide,” says Fidelis Kweyila, an RN on a medical-surgical unit. He has worked at Providence for 7 years.
Safe patient care staffing was a key issue for the RNs throughout the negotiation process, which included a one-day strike in November.
Under the agreement, the nurses will elect a team of bedside RNs to meet with management on a regular basis to address patient care issues, including safe staffing, patient handling and introduction of new technology.
The hospital is required to create a staffing system to improve staffing hospital wide, and the nurses will have a staffing committee to address staffing guidelines. Further, the agreement provides for paid meal and rest breaks to assure nurses can safety take breaks without putting patients at risk.
Pay equity was another significant concern for the RNs. All RNs will benefit from wage increases of at least 6 percent over three years – up to 25 percent, or in some cases more, based on years of experience.
Contract provisions also include a number of workplace protections for the RNs, including fair treatment with a union voice in cases of disciplines or job disputes, advance notice of work schedules, and seniority rights in the event of layoffs.
Providence RNs also raised concerns about Ebola safety standards. Providence has agreed to follow federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines on infectious diseases and assurance of paid time off for nurses exposed to infectious disease.
photo by Chris Garlock