OAKLAND, Calif., Feb. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Thousands of registered nurses and nurse practitioners at more than 60 hospitals and medical offices in Northern and Central California have voted nearly unanimously to approve a new three-year contract with Kaiser Permanente, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United announced today.
As the largest single contract for RNs in the U.S., the agreement charts a clear model for nurses throughout the nation in protecting existing healthcare coverage and retirement security, at a time when many employers are demanding major employee concessions, and in winning important improvements.
The pact, which covers 17,000 RNs and NPs in 21 hospitals and 40 medical office buildings, was ratified by 99 percent of the thousands of nurses who voted in 26 membership meetings held across the region since mid-January.
"This agreement protects our patients, defends our hard-fought economic and practice standards in a tough economic environment, and demonstrates again the strength of our professional union, CNA/NNU, and the unity of Kaiser nurses," said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, chair of the Kaiser bargaining council, and a CNA/NNOC co-president.
"This contract raises the bar for other systems and puts pressure on them to work with their nurses to provide the best care you can," said Deborah Burger, a Kaiser RN, and a CNA and NNU co-president.
"This agreement illustrates there is another path quite distinct from driving down patient care and nursing standards that undermines the RN workforce and harms patients," said Jim Ryder, CNA's Kaiser Division Director.
Key components of the pact include:
- Full protection of all existing standards in healthcare coverage, post-retirement medical benefits, pensions, and a unique to Kaiser no cancellations policy.
- Annual 5 percent pay increases each year of the three-year agreement.
- Regional committees, selected by CNA, to enforce additional staffing based on patient need (acuity) to complement RN staffing ratios that are guaranteed by both state law and the Kaiser-CNA contract.
- New patient acuity tools for home health RNs to improve clinical work in home health visits, and for call center RNs to enhance quality in responding to patient calls.
- Guaranteed fixed schedules to protect arbitrary changes in nurse scheduling.
- Additional pay if nurses are assigned (floated) to a different department, an economic incentive to reduce unsafe floating and to staff appropriately.
- Protocols for more rapid management responses to staffing disputes.
"The call center nurses are now able to develop an assessment tool for RNs and get a little more break time away from their phones. Home health nurses achieved Kaiser's recognition that home health visits take more time, and require an acuity tool for measurement. And the agreement acknowledges that even in these tough economic times, nurses still deserve pay increases so that they don't fall behind the cost of living," said Burger.
With the current CNA/NNU-Kaiser contract expiring on August 31, this contract goes into effect on September 1 and runs through December 2014.
SOURCE California Nurses Association