N.J. hospital, union nurses reach agreement on new contact
Taken from NJ.com
By Spencer Kent
October 23, 2022
Unionized nurses at Jersey Shore University Medical Center have agreed to a new contract with Hackensack Meridian Health, which owns the Neptune facility.
Health Professionals and Allied Employees — the largest nurses union in the state — touted the three-year agreement as a win for the workers.
“This is a huge victory for Jersey Shore HPAE members,” President Debbie White said in a statement. “They fought back multiple takebacks that the employer sought at the bargaining table and made dramatic progress on security and safety issues, with room for further progress in the future.”
Hackensack Meridian Health responded in an emailed statement, saying: “The bargaining committees for Jersey Shore University Medical Center and Health Professionals & Allied Employees have worked hard since July to reach a contract that provides competitive compensation, comprehensive and affordable benefits, and harmonized policies with the HMH network to retain and recruit team members.”
The union and Jersey Shore University Medical Center had been locked in contentious negotiations following several disputes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Union members have accused the hospital of failing to provide sufficient personal protective equipment, forcing them to use suspect respirators and firing a union leader in April 2020 for speaking out about PPE issues. He eventually won back his job through arbitration.
The hospital also was among those slapped with fines in 2020 by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for “serious” citations over workplace conditions and unmet regulatory standards involving masks and other PPE.
Last month, the HPAE issued a withering report in which more than half of the union nurses there said they wouldn’t feel safe being treated at their own facility and an overwhelming majority said the hospital is an unsafe working environment.
At the time, Hackensack Meridian Health condemned the report, saying it was “devoid of facts and should be scrutinized closely for their motives and timing.” It added that the report “is a self-serving propaganda piece timed to coincide with their current contract negotiations.”
HPAE — which represents 1,400 nurses at Jersey Shore — said the agreement focuses on better wages, staff recruitment and retention, patient safety and creates a process for employees to report issues.
“This contract will help retain experienced nurses who can then mentor newer nurses entering the profession,” the statement said. “It provides a wage scale that recognizes nurses for their highly trained experience in the hospital and will go a long way to address a critical staffing shortage.”