More BargainingFacts August 22, 2014

We have been working hard to negotiate a new contract for RNs. Unfortunately, despite our offer to meet throughout the summer, PASNAP has been unwilling to meet more than five times since the contract expired on June 8th. We have one more date next Monday, August 25th. The next month is critical to the bargaining process.

While PASNAP has been too busy to negotiate a new contract, they have found time to file labor charges against the Medical Center with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It is not unusual for unions to file such charges in order to pressure an employer at the bargaining table. That is what the Union tried to do here.

* * *

PASNAP filed three sets of charges with as many as nine claims against Crozer. PASNAP said we violated the law by…

  • establishing a “Vision Day committee” to discuss nursing practice issues;
  • working with nurse practice councils to improve laboratory collection procedures, determine how to assess whether a critical care patient required 1:1 observation, and develop acuity tools to assess medical-surgical patients;
  • acting on nurse recommendations that OR nurses wear long-sleeve jackets to avoid infections; and similar issues.

Out of the nine claims, the Board found that seven were either without merit or should be referred to routine contract arbitration. The Board raised concerns with only two of PASNAP’s claims. While no formal complaint has been issued by the Board against Crozer, the Medical Center has decided to resolve these two issues completely through an informal settlement agreement.

* * *

In the first claim, PASNAP alleged that we violated union rights when we asked picketers to move out of the congested patient pickup and drop-off area during a protest on June 3.

The second claim involved “step increases.” Since the now-expired contract specified that step increases were to be paid “during the Term of this Agreement,” we stopped paying them after the contract expired. In their preliminary determination, the Board disregarded the contract language and agreed with the Union that the steps should be paid until an agreement has been reached with the Union or a lawful impasse in negotiations occurs.

We agreed to settle these issues with the Board to avoid further distractions to the bargaining process. We intend to fully comply with the settlement by paying the step increases the Board thinks we should pay and by posting and complying with a notice prepared by the NLRB.

We hope PASNAP will now turn its focus to negotiations, and work with us to bargain a contract that is fair and sustainable.

BargainingFacts #13

On Tuesday, August 12, representatives of Crozer and PASNAP attended their fourteenth bargaining session in an attempt to negotiate a new contract. We opened the session by asking the Union to respond to the new proposal we presented to them at the August 4th meeting, including:

  1. A proposed cap on pay reductions with improved top-of-scale rates that exceed those at Temple. Nurses in steps one to 12 retain their existing rates. Some would receive pay increases.
  2. A proposed weekend differential enhanced from $3.00 to $5.00—making it equivalent to Temple’s. With weekend and shift differentials combined, the most senior nurses will receive pay close to the current weekend pay rates.
  3. Enhanced “patient experience of care” bonuses. Nurses will get bonuses if they collectively receive a slightly better than average rating (55th percentile) for nurse communication. If they achieve 95%, eligible nurses would get $1,500, prorated for part-timers.
  4. An offer to delay the proposed Pension freeze until April 1, 2015 if the parties reach a ratified contract by the end of this month.

While these proposed concessions by Crozer will reduce its ability to achieve necessary cost savings, we offered them in an attempt to jumpstart the negotiations, which appear to be headed toward a bargaining deadlock.

* * *

Unfortunately, the Union refused to respond to or counter any of these employer concessions. In response to management’s suggestion that the Union itself was engaging in bad faith bargaining by refusing to even respond to proposals, the Union challenged Crozer to file charges.

By the end of the session, after the parties exchanged proposals on health insurance, displacement, uniforms, and improving disciplinary processes, the Union promised to offer responses or counterproposals to management’s new offers at the meeting on August 25th.

At this point no further bargaining sessions are scheduled past that date.

* * *

We are committed to continuing to bargain in good faith. However, no agreement can be reached unless the Union begins to negotiate seriously over the key economic issues. Without an agreement on these issues, there will be no contract at all.

BargainingFacts #12

The 2014 Fiscal Year is over. Operating losses for Crozer-Keystone Health System were in the range of $33 million dollars. In addition, the conditions that led to these losses – lower reimbursements and lower inpatient volumes – continue to put extraordinary pressure on the health system.

With this in mind, when we met with PASNAP for our 13th bargaining session on Monday, August 4, we reinforced that their members must share the burden of reducing costs in order to help fill this $33 million dollar gap.

While we continued to insist upon significant cost reductions, we wanted to demonstrate our interest in reaching a settlement by August 28 by making steps toward a “Best Offer,” as follows:

  1. We changed our wage reduction proposal by offering to maintain existing step rates from step 1 up to 10; increasing rates slightly for steps 10 and 15; and effectively capping wage reductions at no more than 10% for those from step 17 to the top of the scale.
  2. We tied the “patient experience of care bonus” solely to “nurse communications” and lowered the threshold to the 55th Thus, our nurses only need to show they are slightly better than average to get a bonus.
  3. We proposed to increase the weekend differential from $3 to $5 – higher than Temple’s.
  4. We offered to postpone a deferral of Defined Benefit Plan accruals and contributions to the Defined Contribution Plan until October 1 even though they have already been in place for most staff for almost a year. Furthermore, if we reach a settlement by August 28, we offered to put off the hard freeze of the pension until April 1, 2015.

Since negotiations began on April 7, we have been clear that we need a significant reduction in our current top of market pay rates, which cost us $12 million per year more than would rates equivalent to PASNAP’s contract at Temple. We also have proposed the elimination of costly pay premiums like double overtime, the option to eliminate the weekend program and/or replace weekend pay rates with a differential, and a freeze of the Defined Benefit Pension, the contributions for which are expected to climb to $65 million per year in three years.

PASNAP is correct when they state in their flyer that these issues have not gone away. We do not expect that they will. However, contrary to the Union’s claims, our proposals are lawful and necessary.

The facts cannot be disputed. Crozer cannot continue to sustain operating losses in the range of $33 million a year. Our finances will not improve unless or until we make significant changes. We are committed to continuing to bargaining with the Union in good faith. Our hope is that the Union will work with us to determine when and how these changes will be made. Without that collaboration we will not achieve the best outcome.

BargainingFacts #11

Our twelfth meeting with the Union was July 17, 2014. Although we remain concerned with the pace of negotiations, given the fact that the contract expired more than one month ago, we appreciated the professional and collegial tone.

There was give and take on both sides, which is the way that bargaining is supposed to work. As a result, we have our first verbal tentative agreements. They concern the contract provisions on Staffing and Professional Development and Monthly Union-Management Meetings.

We gave the Union counterproposals on Uniforms, Displacement and Layoff, revised Health Insurance, On-call, Transport Team, and Respite Care. They gave us counterproposals on Health Insurance, Uniforms, and two rounds of counterproposals on Displacement and Layoff.

* * *

Wages and pension remain the big sticking points. We held our position on both.

Three key facts are relevant to the wage discussion. First, Crozer nurses are paid at rates that are far above what nurses at comparable hospitals receive. Second, Crozer-Keystone Health System continues to operate at a severe deficit because of declining reimbursement and inpatient volumes. The performance of individual hospitals is debatable, but does not disguise the financial challenges facing our integrated health system. Third, non-bargaining unit employees have not had a wage increase since September 2012 – almost 1-3/4 years ago.

For those reasons, comparisons to wage increases for LIUNA workers or nurses at other hospitals who are paid at or below market don’t make sense. Adopting a wage scale for RNs comparable to a hospital like Temple, as we have proposed, is reasonable given the circumstances we face.

* * *

We also rejected the Union’s pension proposal. We showed the Union team that the so-called “Massachusetts Plan” is risky at best. It will do nurses no good to depend on a plan for their retirement that is unsustainable – such as the current pension plan – or shaky like the Steward Hospital/MNU Plan proposed by the Union.

* * *

Bargaining resumes August 4. We hope for another productive session, and remain open to scheduling more dates so that material issues can be addressed more quickly.

We appreciate the Union’s professional and collegial approach. But we cannot continue to follow the status quo indefinitely. We must have changes that bring RN wages, pay practices, and benefits to sustainable levels, and we must complete them before our financial challenges become even more acute.

BargainingFacts #10

On Tuesday, June 24 we met with the Union for the eleventh time. For many weeks, the Union has been promising to give us their wage proposal, and on Tuesday it was finally delivered.

The Union team characterized its proposal as “creative and novel.” It ties wage increases to Crozer Chester Medical Center’s net income, with a first-year wage increase of 3%, 2%, or 1% depending on whether the Medical Center has money left over after paying its bills. We appreciate the Union’s acknowledgement that Crozer has been dealing with severe financial challenges.

However, under the Union’s proposal RNs would get at least a 1% wage increase even if the Health System is losing millions because it is indexed only to Crozer-Chester Medical Center, and takes effect even if Crozer itself is in the red.

We have tried to make it clear to the Union that even the current wage scales are unsustainable. Union nurses at Crozer remain the highest paid RNs in Pennsylvania – outpacing nurses at all 22 hospitals in a survey of Delaware Valley medical centers including University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson, Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, and Main Line Health. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Crozer nurses’ mean hourly rates and mean annual wages are 42.8% higher than the Philadelphia metro area average.

Crozer is far from the wealthiest hospital in the state. We must bring pay scales for nurses into line with the market.

* * *

In spite of Crozer nurses’ high pay, the nursing patient “experience of care” scores remain disappointingly low. Crozer ranks in the bottom 11th percentile – meaning that 89% of hospitals in the nationally-recognized HCAHPS survey score better. We have proposed a substantial bonus for 2016 if our nurses collectively achieve a 75 percentile rating based on patient surveys in 2015.

The Union finally responded to this proposal. Rather than deal with the problem, the Union proposed that we change the survey.

* * *

The meeting on Tuesday was long, and many proposals were exchanged.

We provided a set of proposals that were nearly fully updated. Our proposals included Weekend Program Displacement, Retirement, TSA, Unpaid Leaves, Sabbatical, Vacation, Staffing and Professional Development Committee, Safe Staffing Commitment, Monthly Union-Management Meeting, Holidays, On Call, Uniforms (plus a Vendor Brochure), Low Census, a new Health Plan proposal, and new Displacement language.

The Union’s counterproposals included Wages, Health Plan, and Experience of Care Bonus, with a proposal on Respite Nursery and a Side Letter on Burn Unit.

We believe we are close to agreement on the Staffing and Professional Development Committee and Union-Management Meetings and are not far apart on language concerning Displacement and Lay-off. However, at this point we still have no tentative agreements at all.

We remain eager to make progress in negotiations, and so we proposed fifteen dates in July and August for bargaining. The Union agreed to only four more dates, the next of which is July 17.

We told the Union we were disappointed in their continuing lack of urgency. We asked if they were serious about negotiating, saying that a strike or lockout would be bad for everybody, and that the only way to reach agreement is to work together at the bargaining table.

The Union responded that they thought the only way to reach agreement was for us to make reasonable proposals – in other words, that no progress would be made until we gave them proposals that they liked.

Click the following link for a full list of proposals and the current status of each:  Comparison_062514

BargainingFacts #9

Our tenth meeting with the Union took place on Friday, June 13. The meeting was cordial and professional, but despite the fact that the contract expired June 8, we still have no tentative agreements at all.

Only one more date was scheduled for bargaining, June 24. While we have agreed to maintain the status quo while negotiations continue in good faith, we do not understand why these negotiations seemed to be such a low priority for the Union.

We asked the Union committee whether they were planning to suspend the talks. When they asked why we asked this, we told them directly that they have rejected all but 10 [of the 32 total] bargaining dates we have offered since February, have canceled two agreed-upon dates, and haven’t provided any additional dates beyond June 24 session.

In addition, the Union has still not provided us with all of its proposals and it has failed to respond to the majority of the Medical Center’s economic proposals. It was only after we said this that the Union agreed to another bargaining date in June.

* * *

In this last session, we provided a number of counterproposals and made significant movement toward some of the Union’s language proposals, as follows:

  • We offered significant “wellness” discounts on the Health Plan—some exceeding 30%.
  • We said we would continue the TSA match for those making less than $50,000/yr.
  • We came very close to matching the Union’s proposals on Staffing and Professional Development Committee and Monthly Union-Management Meetings.
  • We offered – if the Union accepts our vacation proposal – to increase the cap on accumulation and would agree with the Union’s vacation selection proposal.

While the Union committee said they would return to the bargaining table before the end of the session, they left the hotel without doing so. As an afterthought, one of the Union representatives told us, “the session is over” – after the Union negotiator and most of the Union committee had already left.

* * *

For Crozer to continue providing medical services to our community, both parties must find a way to discontinue or modify some of the legacy benefits and pay practices that have contributed to our currently unsustainable financial losses. We believe the only good outcome here will be a negotiated settlement that comes to grips with our economic reality. We are prepared to bargain in good faith in order to get there.

BargainingFacts #8

We met with the Union on Friday, June 6. It was our last scheduled bargaining session before the expiration of the contract, which occurred on Sunday, June 8.

As of this session, the Union has failed to respond to the majority of management’s economic proposals. The contract has now expired and the Union has not yet delivered all of their proposals to the management committee. Yet the Union has agreed to only one more bargaining session, on Friday, June 13.

While we have agreed to maintain the status quo while negotiations continue in good faith, we do not understand the Union’s lack of urgency. Given the difficult financial situation, Crozer cannot hold off on economic changes indefinitely.

* * *

The Union has continued to denigrate Crozer in the press and public on staffing issues. On Friday we gave the Union a detailed presentation on staffing. We showed the Union that our staffing continues to rank above average for hospitals nationwide, in most cases in the top third based on benchmarks established by National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI).

Importantly, Crozer’s current staffing levels provide more nurses per patient than the “California” model for which the Union is advocating.

We also reminded the Union that at Crozer, schedules are set by nurses, not management. We consider this “self scheduling” to be better for the hospital, for patients, and for nurses than arbitrary and rigid ratios such as the Union supports.

* * *

On Friday we continued to supply the Union with detailed proposals and counterproposals. On Friday these included the medical premium share, dental premium share, monthly Union-management meetings, and a counter on the Staffing Committee.

Given the Union’s lack of attention to progress at the bargaining table, it is not surprising that their communications instead focus on incendiary, personal, and inaccurate attacks on Crozer executives. We hope that nurses will not be taken in by these tactics.

The important comparison is this: while the total compensation of Crozer executives – considering all pay and benefits – falls considerably below the median of what other comparable health systems pay, the total compensation of Crozer nurses remains at or near the very top. There are, of course, many more nurses than executives, and given the current financial challenges we must address costly pay practices and legacy benefits that we cannot sustain much longer.

Updates on contract negotiations between Crozer-Chester Medical Center and CCNA/PASNAP.


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