Category Archives: Bargaining Facts Update

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.

More BargainingFacts

WHAT HAPPENS NOW THAT THE CONTRACT HAS EXPIRED?

We worked to reach agreement with the Union before the nurses’ contract expired on June 8. Unfortunately, the Union refused to schedule more than nine dates for bargaining, or to provide meaningful responses to most of our proposals. As a result, we have yet to come to an agreement on any issues.

On June 4, the parties agreed to maintain the “status quo” for a reasonable time while negotiations continue. However, we have been told that the Union has received authorization to issue a strike notice, which means that nothing can stop the Union from striking after it delivers the required 10-day strike notice.

What happens now that the contract has expired without a new contract in place?

The status quo can continue.                                

Crozer is willing to have the nurses continue to work and receive their current wages and benefits while good faith bargaining continues.

Status quo does not include step increases, which are only granted during the term of the contract.

We are committed to bargaining in good faith with the Union, but we are continuing to lose money and given the difficult financial situation, Crozer cannot hold off on economic changes indefinitely since the union has not accepted any of our proposals and it refuses to engage in serious negotiations on economics.

At this point, the Union has only agreed to one more date for bargaining: Friday, June 13.

We have offered two more dates for bargaining, June 17 and 24. We are waiting for the Union to respond to this offer.

The Union can call a strike.

If the Union calls a possible strike, the nurses need to consider the impact on themselves and their families:

  • Nurses who strike lose a day’s pay for every day they are on strike.
  • Benefits cease to accrue during a strike.
  • Strikers get no unemployment from the state.

A strike does not guarantee a favorable settlement. History has shown that most strikes do not lead to better settlements.

If work is not available when the strike is over, strikers may not be able to return to work immediately. However, following an unconditional offer to return to work, the Hospital would reinstate strikers on a preferential basis as positions become available.

We believe the Union would be making a tragic mistake if it decided to strike when our census is slipping and we are continuing to lose money.

We do not want a strike – we just want serious negotiations on both sides. Only this will get us to an agreement.

BargainingFacts #7

On Wednesday, June 4, we participated in our eighth bargaining session with CCNA/PASNAP. This Friday, June 6, 2014 will be our last bargaining session before the contract expires this Sunday, June 8.

We made some progress on issues such as transport team and maternal child health respite nursery. However, despite two months of meetings, we have yet to come to an agreement on any issues.

* * *

The Medical Center still has quite a few proposals on the table. However, we narrowed the issues by opening Wednesday’s session by listing the Medical Center’s “must have” proposals. Until we reach agreement in these areas, we will not reach agreement on the contract as a whole:

  1. New competitive (lower) scale
  2. First-year wage freeze with one year deferral – ongoing
  3. Step increases beginning the second year of the contract.
  4. Weekend rate replaced with weekend differential.
  5. Retention of per diem differential, charge nurse differential, and time and a half for missed meal breaks, but elimination of shift bonuses, double time, double back, pull pay, and other contractual overtime.
  6. Defined Benefit Plan freeze 12/31/2014, deferral Aug 1- Dec. 31, 2014
  7. Elimination of match to Tax Sheltered Annuity beginning 2015
  8. Elimination of retiree medical/retiree life insurance
  9. Elimination of grandfathered nurses’ sick time payout
  10. New Health Plan and flexibility to make Plan changes
  11. Holidays
    • Nurses must work three holidays, one of which is either Thanksgiving or Christmas, and
    • Nurses must work their normal shift on a holiday
  12. Vacation
    • Daily application of non-productive time percentages
    • Combine Peak Summer and Thanksgiving/Christmas
    • Cap on accumulations
  13. No cap on low census days

Near the end of the meeting, we discussed what would happen once the contract expires this Sunday. We agreed that the status quo should be maintained with respect to wages and benefits at least for a reasonable time while negotiations continue. However, we advised the Union that the status quo would not include step increases, which are only granted during the term of the contract.

BargainingFacts #6

The law requires management and unions to bargain in “good faith.” This is “an obligation to participate actively in the deliberations so as to indicate a present intention to find a basis for agreement.”

On the other hand “parties are not compelled to reach agreement,” and it is not bad faith bargaining for an employer to ask for concessions or make proposals that are unpopular with union members.

We have participated in seven bargaining sessions with PASNAP/CCNA, and offered dozens of additional dates for bargaining that the Union has refused. We presented a comprehensive overview of our proposals at the very first session, and have followed up with detailed, complete proposals which are posted, along with the Union’s proposals, at CrozerBargainingFacts.com.

We have been very clear from the outset that the extraordinarily serious financial challenges facing Crozer would require the Union and its membership to work with us to rein in costly pay practices and certain legacy benefit programs. Instead, the Union’s own communication demonstrates that they have either failed to make proposals, insisted that we “maintain current” plans or language even when those contract provisions perpetuate costly benefits and practices, or demanded expanded or new benefits that would cost even more.

In short, the Union has done little so far to demonstrate its willingness to find a basis for agreement. Though we have had discussions, no agreements have been reached on any proposals.

Most recently, the Union has circulated information outside of bargaining that is inaccurate, deceptive, and belligerent. In several cases the Union has misrepresented our position, and has drawn a false comparison with executive compensation meant to inflame its members rather than promote a fair settlement.

We hope the Union in the future will tell the truth and devote itself to good faith bargaining so that we can arrive at the best settlement possible before too much more time elapses.

* * *

As you know, the Defined Benefit Pension Plan is currently underfunded. We have therefore proposed to freeze the Defined Benefit Plan by the end of the calendar year. Current Plan participants would retain all benefits accrued up until the end of the year, and these benefits would be available to them at retirement, but they would move from the pension to the Defined Contribution Retirement Plan as of January 1, 2015.

The Union has instead proposed to replace the Crozer Defined Benefit Pension Plan with a multi-employer pension plan sponsored and created by the New England Nurses Association and a group of hospitals in Massachusetts. We told the Union we would review the Plan documents for this Massachusetts Pension Plan.

On Thursday the Union responded to our proposal on Health Insurance with a proposal that maintains the status quo and rejects any changes or increases in cost. The Union said they preferred to keep the Plan the same with no price increases. The Union asked questions about the Wellness Program, which offers employees the option to participate in voluntary wellness initiatives that focus on health improvement in return for reduced medical insurance premiums.

* * *

On Thursday morning a Federal mediator met with both parties separately and then attended one of the joint bargaining sessions. The mediator will also attend our meetings next week on June 4 and June 6. With the contract due to expire at midnight on June 8, we hope the Union will join us in working hard to reach a settlement prior to contract expiration.

You can view our complete proposals here and those of the Union here.

BargainingFacts #5

We attended bargaining with CCNA/PASNAP last week on Tuesday, May 20. It was our fifth bargaining session. This week we resume for back-to-back sessions on May 28 and 29. After that, the Union has agreed to only two more meetings.

During last week’s meeting discussions were positive. We appreciated the very professional and thoughtful presentations made by the staff nurses who attended. However, no agreements were reached and little progress was made.

* * *

Three years ago, when we were negotiating the 2011 contract, the Union held a strike vote on May 24. The next day the Union announced that it had received authorization to give us a strike notice. Fortunately, the notice never came, and the contract was eventually settled without a strike.

We are not predicting a strike now, but by this date in 2011, we were much further along. The Union and the Medical Center had come to agreement on some proposals and the Union was offering counterproposals on economics.

This year, we still do not have all the Union’s proposals. The Union says it will not respond to our economic proposals until the language issues are resolved. We believe most employees, including the nurses at the bargaining table, recognize that Crozer is in a very difficult financial position. The Union, unfortunately, is refusing to face the facts:

  • Crozer-Keystone Health System operations have lost $32,000,000 year to date.
  • Days of “cash on hand” have dropped to 96 from 105.
  • Census continues to be low.
  • Last week Moody’s downgraded CKHS debt, warning that operating deficits and scant operating cash flow could lead to violations of bond and bank covenants.

What is the Union waiting for—an emergency?

* * *

Recently, the Union asked us whether we would characterize our financial situation as “dire.” We said we did not want to use that word, but it was very urgent. Given the urgency, we have proposed that many of our economic proposals go into effect as early as June 9.

We also proposed to implement for the nurses a deferral of pension benefit accruals starting July 1, because our financial needs are immediate. In addition, most other employees have had their pension benefits deferred since January 1. We informed the Union this would save $2,800,000 (annualized expense reduction) based solely on bargaining unit RNs under age 60. As with other employees, those aged 60 or older are exempt.

We believe both parties need to share a sense of urgency. The Union needs to get engaged and begin bargaining in good faith over all of the issues we are facing. Waiting until the last minute will not serve anyone’s interest.

You can view our complete proposals here and those of the Union here.

Bargaining Facts #4

On May 16 we met with CCNA/PASNAP for our fourth bargaining session. We were pleased that the day was productive. Presentations by RNs from the Emergency Department and Maternity were notably professional in tone, and we are considering the information and ideas nurses presented.

We remain concerned that the Union would not consider additional dates beyond the three already scheduled. When asked if we considered the situation “dire,” we responded that this year cannot be considered a “normal contract renewal.” In addition, the Union’s proposals are neither financially sound nor reasonable given our current challenges.

We provided an update on the economic situation of Crozer-Keystone Health System, as we have done at each session. As of April 30, we have a net operating loss from operations of $32,000,000. Our fiscal year operating margin year to date is -5.0%, whereas last year to date was +1.0%. As a result, our cash on hand – a key measure for hospitals and health systems – has shrunk from 105 days at the end of March 2013 to only 96 days.

We believe both parties need to share a sense of urgency. The Union needs to get engaged and either accept our proposals or make financially responsible counterproposals. Waiting until the last minute will not serve anyone’s interest.

We presented the Union with full text for our proposals on the Wage, Weekend Program, and Pay Premium articles. We also presented our responses and counters to every one of the ten proposals that the Union has put on the table so far.

We maintained our position on the Permanent Charge, Low Census, and Vacation articles. We are considering the Union’s counterproposal on High Demand Months.

We also maintained our position on the Union’s proposal for Nursery, but are discussing the model presented by the Union on how to handle respite care for mothers.

We presented counterproposals on Transport Team and Burn Team. We also presented a counter on the methodology for reducing nursing errors and improving clinical outcomes that uses Healthcare Performance Improvement (HPI) and complements our High Reliability Organization (HRO) model. This last proposal uses a Performance Management Decision Guide, which we also shared with the Union and which you can view here.

We rejected four Union proposals including Pension, New Hire Wages, Staffing based on the California nursing model, and a proposal to remove past years’ disciplines in consideration of further discipline. We will not be able to agree to contract provisions that worsen our already difficult financial challenges.

Again, we appreciated the Union’s productive and professional approach, but we are urging them to share our sense of urgency and agree to additional bargaining dates so that we can reach settlement and avoid the disruption and tension that could result from a last minute rush to finish in the first week of June.

Our next bargaining session is scheduled for May 20.

BargainingFacts #3

Expiration of the contract between Crozer and CCNA/PASNAP is just a little over one month away. Although some progress was made during a lengthy negotiating session on Monday, May 5, much remains to be done. We offered 14 more dates for bargaining and urged the Union to meet with us sooner, rather than later.

After canceling our last scheduled meeting, the Union rejected 11 of these new dates and would agree to only three more, all about a week before the contract expires. We hope the Union will reconsider and agree to more dates in the coming weeks so we have more bargaining time to address the difficult issues.

There is no question that the Medical Center is making tough concessionary proposals. We have no choice, because we are faced with severe net operating losses. Although we have implemented measures across the system affecting hiring and overtime practices, management of supplies and resources, the elimination of certain activities and expenses, and more, we shared with the Union that our fiscal year deficit had reached $31.6 million by the end of March.

Rather than work with us to address these challenges, the Union reiterated its staffing and retirement plan proposals. While Crozer is experiencing low census and units are closing, the Union wants to increase staffing. While the Defined Benefit pension plan is only 74% funded, and heading toward an unsustainable annual contribution of $65 million, the Union wants to move nurses who have always been in the Defined Contribution plan back into the pension. We told the Union we cannot agree to such counterproposals.

We were able to provide the Union with a grid showing proposed changes to Health Benefits. We also gave the Union our health insurance proposal in the form of a prototype 2015 Choices booklet showing that many provisions would not change and showing our affordable health care options, including a 4th tier from Noble Health Alliance.

Our other proposals are meant to help meet the Medical Center’s severe financial challenges. Among them are proposals that pension benefits would cease to accrue from July 1 up to a permanent hard freeze on December 31, 2014 and be replaced by the Defined Contribution plan; that there would be no match on the Tax Sheltered Annuity starting with the 2015 plan year; that Retiree Medical and Retiree Life Insurance would end on June 9; and that sick leave payout on retirement for grandfathered nurses would end June 9.

The Union gave us two proposals, on vacation and low census.

Our next bargaining session is scheduled for May 16. We will continue to bargain in good faith, but it would be better if we could meet sooner, so we could make make real progress on the tough issues that face Crozer and its nurses.

You can view our complete proposals and the prototype 2015 Choices booklet here.