New contract hailed by both sides

Several days after the University of California and the California Nurses Association reached an agreement that averted a strike and allowed nurses to receive a raise, both sides are enthusiastic at the prospects of the new UC nursing contract, especially when it comes to patient care.

Lyon Liew

The two sides reached an agreement five days before the scheduled strike, which threatened to restrict the normal operation of UC’s extensive medical network.

“”Now we can get back to doing what we all want, which is take care of patients,”” said UCSD nurse and negotiator Geri Jenkins.

The university is pleased with the outcome as well.

Lyon Liew

“”We came to a mutual understanding that both sides felt benefited nurses, patients and UC hospitals,”” said UC spokesman Paul Schwartz.

Although UC nurses have yet to vote on the tentative agreement, the CNA is confident that its members will throw their support behind the new contract. The CNA is a statewide nursing organization that represents registered nurses working in UC’s hospitals and student heath service centers, well as 36,000 other California RNs. UC nurses will vote on the settlement proposal at CNA membership meetings on June 3 and June 4.

Under the potential new contract, UC nurses will no longer work under merit-based compensation, a long-contested system that the CNA says subjects its members to biased pay raises. Instead, the settlement package stipulates that after an initial across-the-board increase, the University will compensate RNs using an experience-based payment system. The university retained the right to financially reward performance through lump-sum, salary-independent awards.

Nurses will receive an across-the-board raise that will result in an increase of 19 percent to 35 percent in salary and corresponding pension over three years, depending on which medical center they work at.

UCSD medical center nurses will receive a 19-percent raise spread over the next three years.

The settlement package also requires that each UC medical center establish a CNA-UC advisory board to examine implementation options for next year’s new mandatory statewide nurse staffing ratios.

The CNA had hoped to add specific ratios to the new contract. The advisory board was a compromise made at the bargaining table.

The university must consider in staffing ratios other types of nurses not represented by the CNA, such as licensed vocational nurses, and thus was not able to meet the union’s demands regarding the issue, Schwartz said.

“”We did not feel it was appropriate to make an agreement on staff ratios independent of [upcoming] state regulations,”” he said.

For the nurses, the decision to strike was not an easy one, but they feel it may have helped in the end, according to Jenkins.

“”It’s not a move you take lightly, but it made them understand the seriousness of the situation,”” Jenkins said. “”It was necessary to get our point across.””