Strike possible if hospital and WPNA can’t agree

Category 25 – Original Writing – Original Story
1st Place

 – By Ryan Berry – The Early Bird Newspaper –
The Wayne Professional Nurses Association (WPNA) and Wayne HealthCare (WH’s) are at odds and a strike may be on the horizon if the two sides can’t come to an agreement soon.

The contract between approximately 110 members of the WPNA and the hospital expired on Aug. 18 and the last of the two extension agreements ended on Sept. 30. The nurses have been working without a contract since. The WPNA has rejected two offers thus far and have voted to authorize a strike. To try and avoid a strike, the WPNA has asked the hospital to return to the bargaining table. The WPNA is required to file a 10-day notice of their intent to strike to the federal government and the hospital before they can walk off the job. That notice has not yet been filed.

The issues both sides are having a hard time agreeing on include wages, health insurance costs and overtime.

“The nurses really tried to compromise and to meet the hospital halfway, and we are very disappointed in this offer,” said WPNA President Debbie Osborne. “We are not asking for much, but the wage increases are lower than we have ever had and many of the nurses will see smaller paychecks in January when the health insurance premiums go up.” The nurses are also disappointed this year’s increase is not retroactive to Aug. 18.

“We’re frustrated with the hospital’s continued lack of respect and devaluing of the nurses,” said Rose Hall, union bargaining committee member. “The nurses spoke clearly in the ratification vote and told us their most important concerns. We shared those with the hospital, which doesn’t seem to care about the morale of the people who provide patient care at Wayne Hospital.”

WH’s administration and board of trustees responded to the WPNA’s criticism by stating, “We do respect our staff for good reasons. First, and most importantly, respecting and valuing your employees simply makes good business sense.” WH believes its offer is fair. In its statement, the hospital administration said “When comparing our current pay and hourly rates with similar sized hospitals in the region, we are at the very top of the list. Organizations employing nurses in Darke County do not try to hire our nurses because they cannot afford to compete with our wage package.”

The nurses also argued the cost for health insurance will begin rising in January and nearly triple by the end of the three-year contract period. They believe the small increase in wages won’t keep up with the rising cost of health care. The hospital countered by noting, “We chose as a company to not pass all of our rate increase onto our employees.  We chose as a company to redesign our plan to provide nice discounts to our employees for using our services at our hospital. While we cannot keep our plan as it currently is, we did all we could to limit the increase.” The hospital has gone three consecutive years without a health care premium increase.

The hospital administration also released its terms of the most recent contract offer:

  • Pay increases for each year of the contract. The hospital believes this will keep WPNA members as the highest paid in the area,
  • Approximately 50 percent of the nurses will receive step increases in addition to the annual increase.
  • Offered an increase in tuition reimbursement money.
  • Agreed to include Paid Time Off (PTO) to be used in as little as one-quarter hour increments.
  • Agreed to enhanced job postings that provides added description of the open position.
  • Agreed to expanded funeral leave to include more relatives.
  • Agreed to an increase in Charge Nurse pay of 33 percent.
  • Agreed to an increase in Mentoring pay of 25 percent.
  • Agreed to an increase in Mandation pay of 14 percent.
  • Offered a premium of 50 cents per hour for holding a BSN degree.
  • Offered a premium of 30 cents per hour for those holding a specialty certification.

Hall responded, “The hospital makes it sound like the nurses are greedy. That’s not true at all. We love caring for patients, but it can be a stressful job and nurses have to work nights, weekends and holidays. We only want reasonable pay and benefits – not to go backwards and not to have contract rights we’ve won over the years taken away.”

The WPNA and WH are expected to resume talks this week.