PROVIDENCE – A new collective bargaining agreement, effective through Nov. 30. 2016, was ratified this week by union employees at Women & Infants by a vote of 1,138 to 55, hospital and union officials announced Thursday.
The new agreement covers about 1,700 nurses, technicians, service and maintenance workers, and clerical staff represented by District 1199 of the New England Health Care Employees Union, Service Employees International Union.
The new agreement comes eight months after 399 nurses and union members picketed outside the Dudley Street entrance of Women & Infants Hospital on April 11, calling on the hospital to lift its hiring freeze and fill vacant positions with permanent, local workers instead of hiring temporary, subcontracted “traveler” nurses.
Highlights of the new, four-year agreement include:
Wage increases in all but the first year of the contract to assure competitiveness in the marketplace.
Availability of three comprehensive health care plan options, with an introduction beginning in 2014 of employee contributions to health care costs.
For workforce investment, contributions to an education fund overseen by a joint Labor Management committee.
Introduction of clinical ladders that will afford the opportunity for RN clinical recognition/advancement based on criteria for clinical excellence and professionalism.
Introduction of new clinical tracks to expand and increase the hospital’s nursing float pool for staffing flexibility.
“This contract reflects a milestone in recognizing that the skills and capacities of our workforce require continual renewal and investment,” said Patrick J. Quinn, executive vice president of District 1199. “This helps assure that Women & Infants will maintain its leadership role advancing women’s health care for our state and region.”
Mark Marcantano, Women & Infants’ chief operating officer, also praised the new labor pact. “The new agreement will enable Women & Infants to continue as a workplace of choice,” he said. “It also gives us the opportunity to work together in new ways which will help assure a strong and vibrant future for our hospital in the era of health care reform.”
“We believe that Women & Infants is one of the top places in the nation for women to receive care,” said Wendy Laprade, an 1199 union delegate who is a veteran registered nurse in Women & Infants’ labor and delivery unit. “And to keep us there, we know it will take continued improvement in the skill set of our nursing staff. We are very pleased with the joint commitment to clinical skills building.”