Labor peace? Jersey Shore hospital nurses ratify contract with pay hikes, more staff
Taken from the Asbury Park Press
October 24, 2022
Nurses at Jersey Shore University Medical Center ratified a three-year contract that is expected to increase wages, keep veteran nurses on board and enhance security at the hospital, union officials said Sunday.
The contract, approved three months before the current agreement was set to expire, could increase pay for many nurses by 8% to 11%, Debbie White, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union, said.
“These workers have been adamant that working conditions must improve, and we are now on the right path,” White said.
Jersey Shore University Medical Center, owned by Edison-based Hackensack Meridian Health, is the region’s biggest hospital, with 691 beds. Like its competitors, it has faced a series of challenges in recent years, including pressure from insurers to lower costs; a labor shortage; and COVID-19.
The contract, overwhelmingly approved, covers 1,400 nurses at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. And it turns down the heat on what has been a contentious relationship between and the union and the Neptune hospital in recent years.
It appeared that the two sides were gearing for another fight leading up to the contract’s expiration date of Jan. 31, 2023.
In mid-September, the union released a survey of its members and found 79% said hospital management doesn’t take adequate steps to keep them safe; 58% didn’t feel safe working in the hospital; and 54% said they wouldn’t feel safe being treated there.
“HMH is not just causing nurses to leave their hospital, they are debating whether they will leave their profession, putting our entire healthcare system at risk,” White said when the survey results were released.
Hackensack Meridian said the survey wasn’t scientific. It countered with a letter from Dr. Angelo Chinnici, an Asbury Park doctor, who said he has worked with Jersey Shore University Medical Center for 40 years and entrusts his family’s care to Hackensack Meridian.
“Criticizing quality of care, distrusting our everyday workplace, and casting a shadow of doubt on our medical expertise is divisive, non-productive, and does nothing to solve the problem,” he wrote. “We are all aware of the challenges ahead of us, but we must make a conscious effort in the spirit of cooperation to surmount them and rise above.”
The differences between the two sides were resolved relatively quickly.
What changed? White said employees were engaged in the talks and communicated their concerns with Hackensack Meridian early in the negotiating process and Hackensack Meridian came to the bargaining table prepared to negotiate.
In addition to the wage increases, White said, the new contract is designed to retain experienced nurses who can in turn mentor younger workers.