Nurses overwhelming approve contract that enhances pay, health and safety and gives 850 unionized nurses a seat at the table in preparing for and addressing future disease outbreaks.
Virtua Memorial Hospital’s unionized Nurses have ratified a collective bargaining agreement that will enhance their pay and codifies health and safety procedures, including how the hospital notifies nurses of infectious disease exposures and commitment to providing proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
HPAE Local 5105 President Sheryl Mount said this contract is a testament to the resolve and commitment of the 850 nurses in her local, many of whom were exposed to virus that causes COVID-19, became infected and were sickened by the virus while caring for patients.
“Our members are sacrificing and risking our health and our lives to work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mount said. “We are doing all that because we care about our patients, our co-workers and our community. Winning a voice in how the hospital allocates resources during a pandemic outbreak was definitely a top priority for us. The achievement of this contract is to know that Virtua Health wants to be a partner in those efforts.”
Virtua Health agreed with Local 5105 to set up the new Pandemic Preparedness Committee, made up of nurses and management, that gives nurses a seat at the table in preparing for and addressing challenges during future disease outbreaks. The employer also agreed to provide PPE that meets or exceeds laws or regulations, including those stipulated by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration; commitment to training nurses how to use and fit-test them for their PPE.
The employer also commits to provide regular PPE updates to the nurses’ union, HPAE, during communicable disease public health emergencies.
HPAE First Vice-President Barbara Rosen said it is significant Virtua nurses will be in the Pandemic Preparedness Committee.
“As they always do, our nurses showed dedication and courage on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and it is important that health care employers everywhere recognize their professionalism and involve them in the planning of outbreaks. This contract could be a model for how we do that,” Rosen said.
In this contract, retroactive to June 2020, nurses will also receive an across-the-board annual 2% wage increases and an average of 1.3 % stepped increase in wages based on years of service. In 2022, nurses will receive the stepped increase but will re-open the contract to determine what the across-the-board wage increase should be.
“We are fighting for dignity and respect and we want to protect what we have spent years building in the workplace so they can continue to do what we do best, which is to care for our patients,” Mount said.