On December 3 we attended another bargaining session. For this meeting, the Union requested the Federal Mediator, and we agreed. Unfortunately, the only mutually available date we could meet with the Mediator was December 3rd—a date on which we could not meet past 4 pm.
When the Mediator arrived she met with each side separately for most of the day. Her approach was to review each party’s positions and identify areas of agreement and disagreement. All communications between the parties went through the Mediator.
During our private meeting with the Mediator we told her we wanted to reach an agreement and we hoped to get a deal by the end of the day. We agreed with the Union that it might be easier to reach an agreement if we focused on a shorter contract, so we revised our proposals to fit into a contract expiring in two to three years—instead of five years.
Based on the parties’ discussions before the meeting, we felt progress could be made on important issues like the weekend program and transitioning from the defined benefit pension to the defined contribution plan. We also agreed we were very close on health insurance.
To make further progress, we conveyed through the Mediator our willingness to compromise and make our proposals more agreeable to the Union. This included some flexibility on wages, holidays, vacations and sick leave payout for “grandfathered RNs” who retired by a certain date. We felt optimistic because we had previously reached signed ‘tentative agreements’ on difficult issues, like displacement, staffing and professional development committee, monthly labor management meetings and transport team. While we were optimistic about making progress toward a deal yesterday—it did not turn out that way.
We found Wednesday’s meeting to be one of the most frustrating bargaining sessions we have ever had. We conveyed our ideas for compromise through the Mediator, but in response she reported rejection and inflexibility by the Union. Where we felt we were close to an agreement, new issues were raised that drove us further apart. Instead of moving toward an agreement, we seemed to be heading toward an impasse.
By the time the Mediator asked us about meeting directly with the Union, our bargaining team was very frustrated and there was no time left. Under the circumstances, we thought a joint meeting could backfire and set us further apart. In fact, neither side requested another meeting. After the meeting ended, some of the Medical Center’s and Union’s representatives met in the hallway and discussed the awkwardness of not meeting face to face over the course of an entire day.
After the New Year, we may reach out to the Union to discuss whether it makes sense for the parties to meet again and, if so, discuss what the agenda should be.