Category Archives: Bargaining Facts Update

BargainingFacts #21

Crozer-Chester Medical Center’s Last, Best, and Final Offer

We have been bargaining with PASNAP for more than a year, and we have attended 26 bargaining sessions. However, we are far from an agreement, and we appear to be hopelessly deadlocked over the core economic issues that matter the most.

It’s all about economics.

We were open and transparent from the first day of negotiations. We committed to bargaining in good faith, but the Medical Center’s “must haves” were economic concessions from the Union on wages, the wage scale, a one-year wage freeze, a change to the pension plan to control runaway costs, and other core economic issues. Nothing has changed since then.

The Medical Center continues to face financial challenges, and nurse wage rates – still the highest in Pennsylvania – are a key factor. Pension and other retirement obligations also threaten to push us to the breaking point. Without an agreement on these issues, there can be no agreement on a contract.

PASNAP would rather have no contract than one with the necessary concessions.

Rather than engage in meaningful and honest bargaining over the economic issues, the Union has engaged in surface bargaining, delay tactics, double talk and endless, futile discussions leading nowhere.

Highlights of Final Offer.

On April 17, we gave the Union our “Last, Best, and Final Offer” Package and we said we would give them a reasonable time to consider it. Here is a summary:

  1. A five year contract, including a five-year guarantee of no reduction in incumbent RNs’ current rates (red-circled rates);
  2. Continuation of step increases called for in the expired contract through June 8, 2015;
  3. A one-year wage freeze beginning June 9, 2015;
  4. A cost-competitive scale primarily for non-incumbent and less senior RNs with step increases for them and lump sum bonuses for eligible red-circled RNs;
  5. Entry of RNs into the proposed Crozer Choices Health Plan beginning May 1, 2015;
  6. Replacement of the Defined Benefit Pension by an enhanced Defined Contribution Retirement Plan as of July 1, 2015, a freeze of the Defined Benefit Pension, and an end to the costly Tax Sheltered Annuity Match, Retiree Medical and Life Insurance, and Payout of Sick Days to “grandfathered” nurses; and
  7. A Voluntary Lay-off Incentive Program with extended payments to December 31, 2015.

We also have other important proposals on a number of other issues, including, but not limited to weekends and elimination of certain pay premiums.

We intend to continue bargaining in good faith if the Union demonstrates a genuine interest in reaching an agreement that is economically viable for the Medical Center.

View a full list of the Final Offer Package Proposals and a comparison chart showing each party’s positions.

BargainingFacts #20

We met on April 1 with the PASNAP bargaining committee in an attempt to reach a settlement based on the “Best Offer” we presented to the Union on February 17, 2015.

This “Best Offer” is still on the table and it includes:

  • An improved Defined Contribution Plan to replace the Defined Benefit Plan.
  • An improved Health Insurance proposal that caps yearly increases over the life of the contract.
  • Continued payment of step increases up through June 8, 2015, based on the expired contract.
  • A one-year freeze on wage increases lasting from 2015-16. Most Crozer employees – from management on down – have already had a two-year wage freeze.
  • Step increases for RNs within the new wage scale for the rest of the contract.
  • Senior nurses over the scale would have their current rates protected for the life of the contract. Those not eligible for steps would receive lump sum bonuses.
  • A Voluntary Lay-off/Early Retirement incentive (VERP) program.

In yesterday’s session, the Medical Center agreed to nearly all of the Union’s demands regarding unpaid leave and vacation.

* * *

We tried to make progress toward an agreement on the economic “must haves,” such as pay scales, increases, pay premiums, weekend program, pension, retiree health and life insurance, tax shelter annuity and health insurance. Without an agreement on these issues, we do not believe a settlement is possible.

Rather than honestly tackling the issues, the Union tried hard to dodge them. When we asked the Union bargaining team for its position, it engaged in “surface bargaining” and refused to plainly say it accepted or rejected our proposals. When we asked the Union bargaining team to explain what would convince them to accept certain proposals, they vaguely said it would depend on “everything,” or the Medical Center dropping all of its proposals.

While the Union refuses to admit it, after a strike, 26 sessions, and a year of bargaining, we are close to a “bargaining impasse” or “deadlock.”   We believe the Union can only avoid a deadlock by coming to the table prepared to make significant movement.

More information regarding the legal definition and impact of an “impasse” is available here.

BargainingFacts #19

Last week’s new offer from Crozer-Chester Medical Center included an improved Pension proposal, improved Health Insurance proposal, enhanced retirement contributions for RNs age 58 years or older, and a Voluntary Lay-off/Early Retirement incentive (VERP) program. The Union promised to provide a comprehensive response to our proposal at our meeting on February 24, 2015. But the Union failed to deliver.

The Union did not even respond to the early retirement program until we insisted on a response. When they did, they seem to express no interest in it.

* * *

Instead, the Union distributed a 4-page document they said showed their movement toward an agreement. In an apparent attempt to persuade their own members, the Union opened the document – not with any proposals – but with the opinion that “…the negotiations remain productive and fluid and we are confident we will successfully reach a new agreement.” And, “from a legal standpoint, it’s our view that these negotiations remain far from an impasse.”

We disagree. Not only did the Union’s document contain no real movement at all, it took several steps backwards – making it even harder to come to an agreement.

Several of the Union’s proposals were “regressive” in that they reneged upon or withdrew offers that had previously been made. The Union also introduced what they represented to be a “new” or “alternative pension proposal” – but this was the same proposal they had given us on November 6, with one section simply restating the same proposal in different words. The Union claimed that they were making movement on the income surcharge, but their proposal was worse than the one they had made on September 17 and worse than one they had made on September 23rd.

In addition, the Union bargaining team presented incomplete proposals, took a two-hour lunch break, and could not be found when the Medical Center’s team was prepared to resume negotiations. Finally, when the Union team took a caucus to review and respond to the Medical Center’s new Unpaid Leave proposal, they broke for the day and never returned to the bargaining table.

* * *

By simply going through the motions, making regressive proposals, and continuing their present course of bargaining conduct, the Union is engaging in unlawful “surface bargaining.”

Unless the Union comes to the table prepared to make significant movement, we will soon be at an impasse – instead of reaching the agreement they profess to want.

BargainingFacts #18

After a two-month break in negotiations for RNs at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, and in light of the ratification of a labor contract by RNs at Taylor Hospital, we opened negotiations on February 17 with a new and improved offer. This new offer provides:

  • Continuation of existing step increases through June 8, 2015;
  • New wage steps starting in the second year of the contract with 5% in bonuses for those not eligible for steps;
  • Increased contributions to the Defined Contribution Retirement Plan, based on age, of up to 6.25% of annual base salary after the Defined Benefit Pension Plan is frozen July 1, 2015;
  • Additional contributions to the Defined Contribution Retirement Plan, based upon years of service, of 2%, 4%, or 6% for RNs age 58 years or older with at least ten years of service; and
  • An enhanced Health Insurance proposal with yearly caps on premium increases, guaranteed continuation of both enhanced and basic plans, and limits on future changes.

* * *

In addition, if a contract is ratified on or before March 31, 2015 we are offering a one-time Voluntary Layoff Incentive Program for RNs age 55 years or older with at least ten years of service who qualify for Early Retirement.

In contrast to the 2011-2014 collective bargaining agreement, which requires RNs to be age 60 years or older with at least 15 years of service in order to qualify for medical and life insurance benefits, this one-time Voluntary Layoff Incentive Program lowers the eligibility requirements while also providing severance benefits. The benefits include:

  • Pension Benefits from the Crozer-Keystone Retirement Plan;
  • Early Retirement Medical and Life Insurance at 50% of cost for the RN and spouse;
  • Payment for earned but unused vacation and sick hours[*]; and
  • Severance pay of two weeks plus an additional week for each three years of service, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

Again, this program will only be offered if a contract based on our “Best Offer” is ratified by March 31, 2015. After nine months of negotiations, we believe this most recent “Best Offer” is also our best chance for finally settling this contract dispute.

* * *

The Union told us that they would need more time to respond to our comprehensive proposal. We hope they come prepared to finalize a contract at our next negotiation session, now scheduled for February 24, 2015.

 

 

[*]Payment of earned but unused vacation in accordance with Article 9: Vacation and payment of sick hours accrued above 240 hours to a maximum of 240 hours (30 days) in accordance with Article 11: Sick Leave.

BargainingFacts #17

Happy New Year!

We wanted to bring you a summary of where things stand at the beginning of 2015. As of today, we have been negotiating in good faith with Bill Cruice of PASNAP and the Crozer-Chester Nurses Association bargaining team for more than nine months. We are committed, as we have always been, to negotiating a fair contract with the nurses of Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

* * *

At our very first bargaining session on April 7, we identified a set of changes we “must have” in a new contract to ensure the long-term viability of Crozer-Chester Medical Center. These included the following:

  • A new and more competitive wage structure;
  • Elimination or reduction of costly and non-competitive pay premiums, such as extra-shift bonuses, “double backs,” and double-time for the first overtime shift;
  • Reduction by attrition of the Weekend Program and reduction of weekend rates that are currently $56.78 and $61.82 an hour;
  • A hard freeze of the Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plan and transfer of participants into the Defined Contribution (DC) Plan;
  • An end of the employer match to the Tax Sheltered Annuity, beginning with employee contributions made in 2015, as well ending retiree medical, retiree life insurance, and sick leave payout on retirement for grandfathered nurses;
  • A common health plan including wellness, a smoker surcharge and an increased spousal surcharge; and
  • Priority on patient care when scheduling holidays, vacations, leaves and other time off.

We were clear up front about these needs, and we have not wavered from them because we cannot. These changes are required if the Medical Center is to meet its commitment to provide for the health needs of our community.

* * *

Our last comprehensive contract offer – our “Best Offer” – was made on Oct. 8, 2014. This “Best Offer” would have maintained the existing experience-based rates for the duration of a three-year contract dating back to June 2014, even though they are over the market and over the new proposed wage scale. However, this “Best Offer” was subject to the Union’s acceptance and ratification within a reasonable time.

The Union dismissed these concessions and did not offer any counterproposals that met the economic “must haves” we need to ensure the Medical Center’s long-term viability.

* * *

The Union recently proposed January 8 and 13 for further bargaining. We are unavailable on the 8th because we are already committed to bargaining with EMS personnel represented by PASNAP, but we have agreed to meet on January 13 if the Federal Mediator is available.

Bargaining Facts #16

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.

BargainingFacts #15

Today was our first bargaining session since the nurses returned from the strike on September 26th. In this session, the Union made no new proposals, and it did not propose any further bargaining dates. By comparison, Crozer-Chester Medical Center presented a new “Best Offer” with incentives to get the Union to settle by October 17.

Highlights of the new package include the following:

  • The Medical Center proposed a new, five-year contract.
  • We offered to drop our proposal for pay cuts affecting the highest paid nurses as part of an overall contract settlement. These cuts would have saved the Medical Center almost $14 million over five years.
  • Those paid more than the new scale would be red-circled to protect their income levels for the next 5 years. On top of their salaries they also would get two percent (2%) of their salaries paid in a lump sum in 2017 and 2018.
  • Nurses covered by the new scale would get yearly increases to their step rates starting in 2015.
  • The Medical Center would delay freezing the pension plan until June of 2015. Plus, we offered the Union a choice of retirement plan contributions based on either age or seniority.
  • Weekend Program would continue and nurses would get a weekend hourly rate of $54.15 for days and $59.18 for nights. Those whose regular rates exceed the new weekend rates would get the higher rate.
  • While the Medical Center reserves the right to end the Weekend Program for substantial operational or economic reasons, nurses would be protected by the recent displacement agreement regarding notice, bumping rights, and severance if applicable.
  • The parties agreed they are not that far apart on health insurance.
  • Despite the recent strike, management will not back down on eliminating certain costly pay premiums, such as double time, double-backs, and extra shift bonuses.

If the parties do not reach a ratified agreement by October 17, however, Crozer reserves the right to pull these concessions off the table and return to its September 17th proposal. Since the Union has not even proposed bargaining before October 17th, it seems unlikely that the Union will meet this deadline.

We certainly encourage the Union to return to the bargaining table before October 17th to take advantage of this more favorable settlement opportunity. A copy of our new “Best Offer” is posted here.