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UC RNs Overwhelmingly Approve New Contract

10,000 Nurses Win Patient Safety Protections

OAKLAND, Calif., March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Some 10,000 registered nurses at University of California medical centers throughout the state ratified a new contract by an overwhelming majority, the California Nurses Association announced today. The pact contains sweeping patient safety improvements, as well as resolving long-standing issues of pension and retirement healthcare security.

The agreement, which Beth Kean, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee's UC director, called "a significant advance for the retention and recruitment of registered nurses," was voted on in membership meetings all last week, concluding on Saturday evening.

CNA/NNOC's UC RN bargaining team unanimously recommended ratification of the tentative agreement. Nurses voted on the settlement in membership meetings at UC facilities in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Davis, and Irvine, and student health centers in Riverside, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Berkeley, and Merced.

"We are very happy with our new contract -- it benefits UC nurses, UC patients, and UC," said Geri Jenkins, RN, UCSD, and a member of the CNA/NNOC Council of Presidents. "We have won the kind of patient care and staffing protections that will allow us to retain the high-caliber, experienced RNs needed to provide the quality care needed for our complex patient population."

"Preventing UC from instituting a policy that combines vacation, sick, and holiday pay that would have forced nurses to come to work sick was a top priority of our current bargaining," said Manny Punzalan, RN, UCLA-Westwood. "This was an important patient safety issue."

"Equity adjustments to our salaries at the lowest-paid UC medical centers means nurses at UC Irvine and UCSD are being better recognized for the critical role nurses play in the provision of patient care at our medical centers," said Tam Nguyen, RN, UC Irvine.

Another patient safety issue was a proposal to limit mandatory "shift rotation," where nurses are required to work day shift, then rotate to night shift. "Shift rotation has been shown to reduce RN alertness and increase medication errors," said James Darby, RN, UCSF. "The first-time-ever limits on mandatory shift rotation that we won ensure that patient needs are considered."

The continued protection of pension and retiree health benefits, secured in the agreement, "encourages the recruitment and retention of nurses at UC," said Ann Brown, RN, Santa Monica-UCLA.

"Improved access to our educational leave benefit means UC nurses will be able to stay on top of the latest advances in nursing, which in turn benefits our patients," said Carol Majesky, RN, UC Davis.

The RN team was also able to soundly defeat a controversial "wellness" program that would have required nurses to fill out an extensive questionnaire that could be shared with the insurance provider. Sutter Health RNs are battling a similar proposal that is one of the key issues for Sutter RNs who are starting a 10-day strike at Northern California Sutter hospitals this Friday.

Contract Highlights:

1. Three-year contract (expires September 2010)

2. Continued pension and retiree health protection

3. New staffing protections

-- Rejection of a policy that combines all paid time off into one

bank -- (Paid Time Off) that would have encouraged RNs to come to

work when sick.

-- First-time-ever limit on policy that forces RNs to work a rotation

of day and night shifts called mandatory shift rotation.

-- Technology protections. Agreement that new technology will not

replace the RN's professional judgment or the RN's role in delivery

of care to patients.

4. Salaries increases

-- Across-the-board 6 percent increases at all medical centers this

year with increases for future years to be negotiated in the fall of

2008 and 2009

-- Additional equity adjustments for UC Irvine and UCSD, the

lowest-paid UC medical centers.

-- Increases of up to 8 percent at the student health centers.

SOURCE California Nurses Association
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