For more information contact: Jeanne Otersen 201-262-5005 or cell 201-280-9279
Less than one year before the expiration of the County lease with Bergen Regional Medical Center, the union representing 500 nurses and health professionals began bargaining a new collective bargaining agreement on March 30 with hospital management. The current union contract is set to expire on May 31, 2016.
According to the union, in addition to wages, bargaining will focus on:
• Reviewing current staffing levels and developing enforceable staffing levels for patient care;
• Improving health and safety standards and bringing the hospital into compliance with state violence prevention laws;
• Increasing tuition reimbursement and support for continuing education;
• Expanding the network for health insurance coverage
“Our goals and our proposals will focus on establishing standards for care and safety, as we transition to a new county agreement for the future of Bergen Regional Medical Center,” said Jeffrey Peck, president of HPAE Local 5091, which represents 500 nurses and health professionals at the hospital.
The hospital was leased by the Bergen County Improvement Authority (BCIA) to a for-profit company, Solomon Health Group in 1997, and the contract is set to expire in 2017. Union leaders said they would also focus on protecting services and accountability in both their bargaining and public outreach connected to the transition plan for the hospital’s future.
HPAE has submitted a set of standards for a partnership or new contract for BRMC to County officials, calling for:
• Improved Oversight & Authority: Keep the license to operate the hospital in County hands, with the authority to ensure full compliance with patient safety, financial reporting, governance and labor laws and regulations.
• Protection of the Hospital’s Mission for Patients: Give preference to not-for-profit partnerships that focus on the mission of the hospital.
• Effective Enforcement: Strengthen remedies for contract violations, such as financial penalties and appointment of an on-site monitor.
• Safe Staffing Requirement. Set safe standards for nurse and caregiver staffing for all hospital units.
• Service Protections and Enhancements. Determine services based on community need, with BCIA approval required for any change or reduction in health services.
• Workers’ Rights Protections. Recognize existing unions, collective bargaining agreements, and rights of the workforce.
• A Proven Track Record Review every applicant’s track record for patient/resident safety, employee safety, labor relations violations and financial transparency.
• A Safe Facility for Patients and Workers: Make needed capital improvements, with shared financial responsibility for maintenance and improvements.
• Accountability to Taxpayers & Financial Transparency. Require annual audited financial statements for BRMC and any affiliates of the operator with business or financial relationships with the facility.
• Public disclosure of Self-dealing and a ban on conflicts of interest. Require disclosure and County approval for transactions between related or affiliated entities to a hospital operator.