Rochester General Hospital (RGH) and the Rochester Union of Nurses & Allied Professionals (RUNAP) met today for our ninth bargaining session since negotiations began in October. The session began at approximately 10 AM and ended just before 5 PM, with both sides discussing several issues as they work towards a first collective bargaining agreement.
RGH presented a number of proposals today related to important economic issues in an effort to reach a first collective bargaining agreement that is both fair and fiscally responsible.
During the Session, the Parties Discussed the Following Proposals and Counterproposals from RGH:
Wages: Despite RUNAP not making a counterproposal to RGH’s first wage proposal, the Hospital provided an updated wage proposal in a good faith effort to reach an agreement. RGH’s counterproposal offers a new base rate scale that details the minimum amount a nurse would be paid, based on their years of licensure, and absorbs the existing department premiums. Once the contract is ratified, existing employees would either move to the rate associated with their years of licensure on the new scale, or receive a 4% wage increase, whichever is greater. RGH’s proposal also offers employees 3% wage increases for both the second and third years of the contract. In total, nurses would receive a 10% increase over the life of the contract, which is on top of the significant increases they have received since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, RGH made a new proposal to reward its longest tenured nurses with a Longevity Bonus. Nurses who have maintained their RN licensure and been employed by RRH for at least 20 years would receive a $2,000 annual bonus. This would replace the existing Star program.
RUNAP did not respond to RGH’s proposal, but asked RGH to produce additional information related to the Hospital’s proposal. This issue remains open for negotiation at future sessions.
Clinical Ladder: RGH’s proposal would maintain the Clinical Ladder in accordance with the existing Clinical Ladder policy, as the ladder continues to recognize professional development, reward clinical expertise and enhance nurse recruitment and retention. RUNAP presented a counterproposal on this item with certain language changes. This issue remains open for negotiation at future sessions.
Device Pay: After reviewing RUNAP’s proposal on Device Pay, RGH rejected RUNAP’s separate device pay proposal. As written, the union’s proposal only focuses on five devices, while there are dozens of devices nurses use every day to provide patient care throughout RGH. RGH explained to RUNAP that implementing systems to track all the devices that nurses are certified to use, along with any required recertifications for those devices and the frequency with which devices are upgraded or replaced, would create a substantial burden and additional administrative expenses.
RUNAP indicated that it is maintaining its current proposal on device pay, and also asked that RGH produce information on the devices used by RGH nurses. No agreement was reached on this topic.
Differentials: RGH presented a counterproposal on Differentials. RGH explained that it is confident the proposal is competitive with what is offered at other hospitals in the market. RGH’s counterproposal would provide nurses working Weekday Evening and Weekday Night shifts with a $3.00 per hour differential, nurses working Weekend Day shifts with a $2.00 per hour differential, nurses working Weekend Evening shifts with a $3.50 per hour differential and nurses working Weekend Night shifts with a $4.50 per hour differential. RGH explained its goals to harmonize the Shift Differential program across RRH, eliminate the current four-hour requirement to receive the differential for many shifts so employees are paid for the hours they work in the defined Shift Differential Zones, and appropriately recognizing those nurses who choose to work on weekends. As part of RGH’s proposal, the current “Interim Off-Shift Adjustment” program would be replaced by the new system proposed by RGH.
RGH also proposed to maintain the Charge Pay program as-is, as it appropriately compensates nurses who are assigned and performing Charge duties. Charge nurses would continue to receive an additional $2.00 per hour.
Additionally, RGH rejected RUNAP’s proposals on preceptor and triage pay. RGH explained that it would be an administrative burden to provide additional add-ons for these roles given that many nurses precept and triage at various shifts.
Finally, RGH proposed to increase the existing Weekend Program by $0.50 to help incentivize nurses to work on weekends.
RUNAP presented a revised counterproposal on differential issues. This item remains open for negotiation at future sessions.
Insurance Benefits: RGH’s counterproposal would decrease rates for Single, Two Person and Employee + Children health insurance plans slightly for the remainder of 2023 and would place a rate increase cap of 8% for the future years during the term of the contract. It would also guarantee that RUNAP-represented nurses receive Health Insurance, Dental Insurance, Vision Insurance and Life Insurance in the same manner as all other RRH employees.
RGH also rejected RUNAP’s Short Term Disability proposal. RGH explained to the union that RUNAP’s proposal is outside of industry norms and would not incentivize employees to return to work when out on leave.
Finally, RGH rejected RUNAP’s proposal to decrease the number of hours an employee would have to work to be considered eligible for benefits. RGH explained that the Hospital’s benefit eligibility requirement (20 hours) is in-line with local industry standards and that, other than Per Diems, there are no RUNAP-represented nurses whose scheduled weekly hours are below RGH’s existing 20 hours per week benefit-eligible threshold.
RUNAP presented a revised counterproposal on this issue, but no agreement was reached today.
Holidays: RGH presented a counterproposal that would exempt nurses with at least 25 years of service at RRH from working on Holidays. RGH also rejected RUNAP’s proposal to add three additional holidays, as the number of holidays available to nurses, and all RRH employees, increased this past year with the addition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
RUNAP presented a revised counterproposal on holidays. This issue remains open for further negotiation.
Per Diem: RGH presented a counterproposal that would maintain the use of the Per Diem premium program nurses, in order to ensure the Hospital is able to maintain appropriate staffing levels during weekend or evening/night shifts. As part of the proposal, Per Diem nurses who participate in the Program would continue to be required to work a specific number of weekend and night hours. RUNAP did not respond to RGH’s proposal, but asked RGH to provide additional information on the per diem requirements at the Hospital.
Staffing Incentive Program: RGH rejected RUNAP’s Staffing Incentive Program (SIP) proposal. RGH explained that SIP is a temporary program and that it doesn’t belong in the contract. RUNAP asked RGH to produce information related to SIP hours paid to the nurses in the past 24 months. This issue remains open for future negotiations.
Tuition, In-Service, Conferences: RGH presented a proposal that would increase the monthly amount the Hospital provides to full-time employees for student loan assistance from $150 to $200 (and pro-rated for part-time employees). RGH’s proposal would also provide all qualifying members of the bargaining unit with eligibility for the Advance U Education program, and the option to participate in RRH’s Tuition Assistance Program. RUNAP presented a counterproposal, but the parties were unable to reach an agreement on this topic today.
Vacation: RGH’s counterproposal would continue many aspects of the existing RRH vacation policy and would also provide nurses with 25+ years of service at RRH with one additional vacation day. RGH explained this change will help ensure the Hospital remains competitive while recognizing employees for their longevity. Although RUNAP presented a counterproposal, this issue remains open for further negotiation.
Certifications: RGH presented a proposal that would continue to provide nurses with an additional $0.50 or $1.00 per hour (depending on the Tier of the certification) for up to two certifications. The certification program would continue to be largely governed by the RRH Nursing Certification Recognition Program. RGH would, pursuant to its proposal, pay the exam costs for a nurse’s first two attempts at certification exams. RUNAP presented RGH with a counterproposal, and the parties will need to discuss this topic in future bargaining meetings.
RGH remains committed to bargaining in good faith with the goal of reaching a fair agreement that ensures patients receive the best possible care and that nurses are treated fairly and can do their best work.
RGH and RUNAP are scheduled to meet again for bargaining on May 4, 2023. We will issue another update following that session to keep you informed. You can sign up to receive email or text alerts when a new bargaining update is posted to the website and also submit any questions. Please visit www.RGHNursesMatter.org for more information.