Pottstown Hospital nurses OK contract
Agreement ends two years of negotiations
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.
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.