BOSTON, March 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Tufts Medical Center today said that National Nurses United, the parent union of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, has made little effort to reach a contract agreement with the hospital, raising serious questions about the union’s commitment to the issues important to Tufts Medical Center nurses. Tufts Medical Center’s most recent offer includes concrete, definitive and forward-looking provisions on the issues most important to its nurses. While Tufts Medical Center continues to bargain in good faith, the NNU/MNA is clinging to an aggressive national agenda that has repeatedly led to strike threats and actual walkouts at hospitals across the country, regardless of the issues on the local bargaining table.
Tufts Medical Center has made significant proposals to the NNU/MNA in an effort to reach an agreement on a contract extension to meet the needs of our nurses. Despite these efforts, the NNU/MNA ended yesterday’s negotiation session even though Tufts Medical Center asked to continue the session.
Tufts Medical Center’s offer includes proposals its nurses have said are important to them, including:
- Hiring additional nurses who would be available on a moment’s notice to fill staffing needs created by sick calls or increased patient volume
- Adding charge nurses who are not assigned to patients and serve solely as a clinical resource to assist staff nurses and coordinate effective nurse-patient assignments
- Using overtime in extremely limited circumstances and only when all other avenues have been exhausted to meet patient needs
- Significantly limiting and focusing the temporary reassignments of nurses to similar units that need additional assistance due to sick calls or increased patient volume
- Providing all nurses with a 3 percent raise, with no changes to health and retirement benefits
As it has done at other hospitals throughout the country with which it is negotiating, the NNU has done a disservice to patients through repeated attempts to impugn Tufts Medical Center’s quality and the care its own members provide. It has done so despite the fact that independent, third-party organizations have consistently rated Tufts Medical Center’s quality and care as excellent – which is a result of the innovation and dedication of an entire care team, including nurses, physicians, clinical care technicians, phlebotomists, laboratory technicians, pharmacists and other clinicians.
“It is disturbing that the NNU/MNA is working counter to the best interests of its members,” said Ellen Zane, President and CEO of Tufts Medical Center. “We have listened to our nurses and responded with concrete proposals that will enable our nurses and Medical Center to move forward together. We think it is a shame that the NNU/MNA is so fixated on its national agenda that it will not address what is important locally. The NNU needs to understand that in the age of health reform, all participants in the health care system must be willing to make patient care a top priority and embrace innovations that make patient care even better.”
According to the NNU’s web site, its “National Contract Standards” require that all affiliates work to achieve its national agenda in their contracts. Some of its agenda items include:
- Mandatory staffing ratios (set by union officials). (The Massachusetts legislature over the last 15 years has repeatedly rejected MNA’s attempts to make this law.)
- Other limits on the flexibility of hospitals to staff appropriately and safely
- Limits on the introduction of new technology
- Provisions to enhance the union’s bargaining power
- No compromises on retirement and other benefit programs
In the past year in an attempt to force its national agenda, the NNU has threatened or carried out strikes in numerous hospitals across the country, including California, Maine, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington, DC, Minnesota and Massachusetts.
“As a physician who has worked collaboratively alongside many of my nursing colleagues for more than 20 years, I am surprised and disappointed to see the union negotiators trying to use Tufts Medical Center to advance their national agenda,” said James Udelson, MD, Chief of Cardiology and a 24 year veteran physician of Tufts Medical Center. “Tufts Medical Center is at the forefront of providing high-quality care. We also recognize our responsibility, of which we are reminded daily by the demands of health care reform, to provide the best possible care in a compassionate and cost-effective manner. We truly hope that our nurses will voice their opinion to union officials and urge them to bargain in good faith, as our Medical Center administration has, and demonstrate a willingness to make progress on the local issues most important to our nurses.”