NURSING: Five-Year Nursing Dispute Ends at Alaska Hospital
Bringing to a close "five years of labor discord" and a 26-day strike, unionized nurses at Providence Alaska Medical Center voted to accept a new contract Monday, the Anchorage Daily News reports. Unions nationwide have kept a close watch on the strike, said Susette Putnam of the American Nurses Association, noting that the nurses did well to stand their ground and hash out a deal that included impressive gains on staffing issues. The agreement included overtime caps, scheduling requirements that ensure nurses have at least eight- hour shift breaks, and bans on putting nurses on call except for those departments that already have such requirements. In addition, the contract limits the number of times a nurse can be bumped off a shift because of overstaffing, includes a slight pay raise and requires nurses "to be notified at least three weeks before the hospital makes any major change in staffing, such as in nurse-to-patient ratios." The notice will go to an advisory committee consisting of nurses and hospital representatives. Putman singled out the overstaffing and on-call arrangements as "unusual," and signaled that the move will likely "be copied by some longstanding unions." David Hennage, executive director of the ANA commended the nurses' persistence, saying they are "very satisfi[ed] that it has come to this conclusion." Providence nurses have not had raises since the union formed in 1994, and some say the minimum 5.7% raise in the new contract is disappointing. But Doyle Stewart, a Providence nurse and vice president of the bargaining unit said that even that raise was unexpected, and noted that the team "was convinced that Providence wasn't going to give into demands for a better pay schedule" (Demer, 5/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.