Registered nurses at Mission Hospital in Asheville agreed on their first union contract.
The three-year deal increases wages, guarantees breaks, mandates nurses must be given PPE and free access to COVID-19 testing. It also forms a Professional Practice Committee to review staff levels.
“We are proud of this agreement. It is a testament to the unity of the Mission nurses, and to the phenomenal support we have received from our neighbors, elected leaders, clergy, and friends across the greater Asheville community,” said Mission Registered Nurse Kelly Graham in a press release. “Our pledge to all of you is to ensure that you receive the highest standard of care when you are sick, injured, and in need of therapeutic, healing hospital care.”
Mission Hospital nurses joined National Nurses United in September 2020.
The contract was ratified on July 2 and includes additional training and protections against unsafe “floating” practices which assigns nurses to units where they do not have clinical expertise.
“Our new contract is a huge step forward for nurses, patients, and our entire community,” said Sue Fischer, a Mission Registered Nurse and a member of the bargaining team in a press release.
Here are the details of the contract as shared by National Nurses United:
- Wage increases for all Mission RNs up to 7 percent in the first year and up to 17 percent total, based on years of experience, over the life of the agreement, which includes a grid guaranteeing regular increases.
- Patient care protections, including the formation of a Professional Practice Committee comprised of a dozen union RNs to review patient care conditions and make recommendations for improvement at the hospital, and a separate staffing committee with equal participation of union nurses and management to review hospital staffing levels, with approval by the committee for any changes in staffing patterns.
- Guaranteed meal and rest breaks to ensure RNs can take needed breaks, and a ban on mandatory overtime, both critical to avoiding fatigue that can lead to medical errors.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing, including the requirement that the hospital will provide proper PPE for nurses that meets the strictest federal, state, and local guidelines, and guaranteed HIV and Covid-19 testing for nurses at no cost following an exposure.
- Workplace violence prevention, including a hospital behavioral response team with added security for workplace violence prevention, with additional violence prevention training for nurses.
- Patient handling lift teams and training to reduce musculoskeletal and other injuries to nurses, a major cause of nurse injuries typically linked to ambulating heavier patients.
- Protections against unsafe floating – Unsafe floating is the management practice of assigning nurses to units for which they do not have the clinical expertise or training. The contract limits unsafe floating and ensures that the hospital cannot float nurses from an assignment that leaves their home unit short staffed.
Other important contract provisions include:
- A hospital committee to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on race, gender, age, and sexual orientation in hospital recruitment, retention, promotion, and training.
- Limits on the ability of the hospital administration to make cuts in nurses’ health coverage.
- Just cause protections, including grievance procedures for discipline and hospital harassment.
- Seniority protection for long-term nurses in layoffs, recall, filling of vacancies, and transfers.
- Additional pay for nurses who work nights, evenings, weekends, overtime, when transporting patients, and when called in for needed additional shifts.
- Paid time off to vote in elections.