Pottstown Hos­pi­tal nurses OK con­tract

Agree­ment ends two years of ne­go­ti­a­tions

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Donna Rovins drovins@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mer­cBiz on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN >> The union rep­re­sent­ing nurses at Pottstown Hos­pi­tal has rat­i­fied a three­year con­tract agree­ment.

The fi­nal vote was taken just after 8 p.m. Oct. 8. It is the first con­tract for the union, which was formed in Septem­ber 2016.

Of the to­tal bal­lots cast, 98 per­cent of the nurses voted to rat­ify the con­tract. The fi­nal tally of the vote was not re­leased by union of­fi­cials.

The hos­pi­tal’s 325 nurses, mem­bers of the Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als, ap­proved a con­tract that in­cluded im­prove­ments in wages, health­care and staffing, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease is­sued by the union Oct. 8.

“I’m very happy to fi­nally have a con­tract,” Bernie Moser, RN, from the ma­ter­nity unit, said in the re­lease. “Nurses stood strong to­gether and forced the hos­pi­tal to back down and re­spect the nurs­ing staff. We are proud in what we have been able to achieve in our first con­tract.”

The con­tract pro­vides for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a wage scale based on nurs­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, which the union said “has ended decades of in­equity.”

Un­der the terms of the con­tract, nurses will re­ceive an across the board wage in­crease of five per­cent in the first year, fol­lowed by three per­cent in each of the next two years.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to An­drew Gaffney, staff rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff

Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als, the in­creases could be more or less, de­pend­ing on where a nurse’s wage falls on the scale.

PRN nurses and nurses in the week­end pro­gram — those that work only on week­ends — have dif­fer­ent wage scales, he said.

Gaffney ex­plained that

nurses in the week­end pro­gram have not seen a raise since 2004.

Lori Domin is one of those nurses.

“I am very happy (with the con­tract). The week­end pro­gram is con­tin­u­ing - we’re get­ting raises and will con­tinue to get raises. A lot of peo­ple don’t want

to work week­end and those that do should be com­pen­sated,” Domin said Oct. 8.

Ac­cord­ing to Gaffney, there are four main com­po­nents in the con­tract that ad­dress staffing and pa­tient safety.

One com­po­nent calls for the cre­ation of new com­mit­tees which will in­clude nurses and will cover all as­pects of nurs­ing care.

Two com­po­nents, he said, ad­dress when and how nurses may be pulled from one unit and as­signed to another. The goal, he said, is to as­sure ad­e­quate train­ing for nurses be­ing moved to other units, and as­sur­ing that they can­not be moved twice dur­ing a shift.

The fi­nal com­po­nent, which Gaffney said was a ma­jor is­sue for the union, ad­dresses rest time for OR nurses. It as­sures they re­ceive ad­e­quate rest time be­fore start­ing their next shift if they get called in overnight or at a time they aren’t sched­uled.

Moser was a mem­ber of the nurses’ ne­go­ti­at­ing com­mit­tee.

“It’s been a long two years. We have put a wage scale in place; the hos­pi­tal has never re­ally had one and as a re­sult, wages were all over the place,” she said, ad­ding that the process was both “en­er­giz­ing and ex­cit­ing.

Ap­proval of the con­tract for the nurses at Pottstown Hos­pi­tal ends two years of ne­go­ti­a­tion. The union ini­tially be­gan talks with Tenn.-based Com­mu­nity Health Sys­tems — which had pre­vi­ously owned Pottstown Hos­pi­tal — but those talks ended once the an­nounce­ment was made in May 2017 that Berks Coun­ty­based

Tower Health, owner of Read­ing Hos­pi­tal, would buy Pottstown and four other hos­pi­tals in the re­gion.

While wait­ing for the own­er­ship changes, the nurses at Pottstown Hos­pi­tal staged a pub­lic rally in July 2017 to en­cour­age Tower Health to be­gin dis­cus­sions with the union. The sale of the hos­pi­tals was com­pleted in Septem­ber 2017. Own­er­ship of­fi­cially changed hands in Oc­to­ber 2017.

Two times this year — in May and in Au­gust — the nurses’ union again held pub­lic ral­lies ex­press­ing their frus­tra­tion that ne­go­ti­a­tions weren’t far­ther along.

“We’re ex­cited to work with Tower. It’s time to come to­gether,” Moser said.

“This has been a long time com­ing. We’re ex­cited for this to be over and move for­ward,” Domin added.

“I’m ex­cited for the nurses of Pottstown, who after a long strug­gle have achieved what ev­ery nurse in Penn­syl­va­nia de­serves: a union con­tract,” Mau­reen May, RN, pres­i­dent of the Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als, said in the re­lease. “As nurses we are on front lines of the strug­gle to en­sure that pa­tients get the care they de­serve. This con­tract will be the first step in achiev­ing that goal for the nurses at Pottstown.”

No com­ment was avail­able from Tower Health.

The Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als rep­re­sents more than 8,000 bed­side nurses and health­care pro­fes­sion­als through­out the state.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Nurses at Pottstown Hos­pi­tal, who are mem­bers of the Penn­syl­va­nia As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als, have ap­proved a three year con­tract. It is the hos­pi­tal union’s first con­tract since it was formed two years ago. In this Au­gust 2018 file photo, Bernie Moser, a nurse who has worked at Pottstown Hos­pi­tal for 35 years, talks dur­ing a nurses’ rally out­side the hos­pi­tal.

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