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Latest News - November 2014

November 25, 2014
McKenzie-Willamette nurses OK contract
Dashiell Paulson

SPRINGFIELD — Nurses at McKenzie-­Willamette Medical Center voted by a wide margin Monday to accept the hospital’s offer of a rollover contract that gives them a 2.75 percent pay increase in 2015 and 2 percent raise in 2016.

The bargaining unit represents 259 nurses, 123 of whom cast online ballots. Ninety percent voted in favor of ratifying the contract, according to the union.

“We’re happy with the pay increase and with the contract term being for two years,” said Kate Morris, a registered nurse and bargaining unit chairwoman for the Oregon Nurses Association at McKenzie Willamette. Morris has been on the bargaining team more than four years. She said nurses felt the pay raise was a good offset to the cut in health care benefits they received a year ago.

“We’re all pretty happy with the contract as it was. As far as other facilities in Oregon go, a 2 percent (raise) is about standard right now and a 2.75 (percent) increase is pretty good,” Morris said. She said the voter turnout was good and was an excellent show of support.

However, the bargaining unit still has concerns about staffing levels, which can’t be negotiated through the contract, Morris said. She said the nurses’ union will pursue that issue in Salem during the next legislative session in the spring.

The union leaders said they hope to give the existing Nurse Staffing Law “more teeth” and push for greater enforcement of the rules set out under the law.

Morris said facilities across the state and nationwide have based staffing on budget levels or productivity levels instead of patient acuity levels or how sick patients are.

“You might say a one nurse to five patients is a good level,” Morris said. “But the patients might be sicker than expected.”

“We’ve been in contact with several of the (Oregon) representatives to talk about the language of the staffing rules and enforcement,” Morris said. “We’re asking for staffing to be based more on acuity levels than budgetary demands.”

Alhough the nurses voted overwhelmingly to ratify their contract, the hospital has had trouble finalizing a contract with classified staff, which includes certified nursing assistants, surgery and emergency room techs, and food service workers.The hospital and the Service Employees International Union 49, which represents classified workers, began negotiating in January.

At the end of October the workers went on a three-day strike to bring attention to what they called unfair labor practices at the hospital. The strike ended without concessions on either side.



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