UPDATE: According to a spokesperson from UVM Medical Center, negotiations have ended Tuesday night. Two future dates have been set, August 1 and August 13.
According to a spokesperson, The UVM Medical Center and the nurses’ union completed a bargaining session tonight during which we signed two tentative agreements and proposed language changes on three other articles.
“Our team was pleased to return to the bargaining table tonight and make some progress,” said Eileen Whalen, MHA, RN, president of the UVM Medical Center. “We look forward to continuing the dialogue and reaching a fair agreement as soon as possible.”
There was no comment from the union, as of Tuesday night.
“What do we want? Fair contract! When do we want it? Now!”
That’s how many of the nurses at UVM Medical Center sounded during their strike on July 12th and 13th. Their last contract expired on July 9th.
“And they work very, very hard, so we want to make sure that we fairly compensate, and we believe that we have a very fair proposal,” UVMMC president Eileen Whalen said.
That proposal would give the nurses a 13% raise over the next three years. The nurses want 23%, which the union says would help fill 170 nursing vacancies and help retain current nurses, rather than watching them leave for CVPH in Plattsburgh, where nurses are paid more.
“Plattsburgh is such a short distance away, and the cost of living is 23.6% less to live in Plattsburgh,” Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals president Laurie Aunchman said. “We need salaries that are going to keep our nurses here.”
However, it’s not all about money.
“We thought, as did the union, that we should take the charge nurses and have them free of a patient assignment,” Whalen said “This allows a very seasoned nurse to be available to really assist nurses to make sure that they can give a high quality of patient care.”
Even though contract talks have taken place off and on since late March, the stalemate hasn’t been broken.
Who determined when the strike was going to take place and how long it would last? It wasn’t anyone at the union offices in Williston that did it, and there’s no law or contract language that did it, either. It was the nurses themselves.
The nurses elect colleagues from their own nursing units at the medical center to represent them at the bargaining table. Before the strike, the entire 1,800-nurse membership voted to authorize the 35-to-40-person bargaining committee to call for a strike if the committee felt a strike was necessary…which it did.
“It is the bargaining committee that really determines — at what point do we feel that we need to have a work stoppage?,” Aunchman said. “So the one that we just had was determined by the bargaining committee.”
If there were to be another strike, all 1,800 nurses would have to vote all over again to authorize the bargaining committee to call for it.
For fiscal 2017, which ended last September, UVMMC had $38.3 million in surplus revenue — money it collected for patient care, before expenses, that went over a cap set by the state.
The Green Mountain Care Board has ordered UVM Health Network to spend $21 million of that to increase bed capacity for people with serious mental illness. UVM plans to do that at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin.
The other $17 million or so will be re-invested across the entire health network.