Local 5105 Bargaining Update and Sticker Day Notice - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

Local 5105 Bargaining Update and Sticker Day Notice

Bargaining Update

Yesterday, Our Per Diem nurses had a great turn out to voice their concerns and push back on the Employers proposed changes to the per-diem program! Thank you for the great turnout! This dramatically helped the negotiations committee formulate a strategy for counter proposals to the Employer that will protect current members and help recruit and retain our valuable Per Diem nurses! Also, because of the great turnout from the other breakout sessions, we were able to make substantial progress on the Employers Clinical grouping proposals and a few other issues such as nurse orientation and health and safety. However, we remain FAR apart on our primary issues of STAFFING and WAGES. Despite all the money that Virtua has at its disposal, they continue to insist on solving the staffing problem on the backs of our members instead of committing to even STAFF according to their own grids. They NEED to invest in their nursing staff by offering fair wages that we know will recruit and retain the staff we need to effectively care for our patients.

Our final two sessions before expiration are next Tuesday and Wednesday (30th and 31st) at 10am. We encourage all members who can to attend these sessions. We’ll be at the Barry Brown Health Education Center (HEC) at 106 Carnie Blvd, Voorhees Township, NJ 08043. Here is the link for registration: https://www.hpae.org/2023/03/local-5105-negotiations-session-sign-up/

May 30th Sticker Day

On Tuesday, May 30th, we are asking all members to wear Safe Staffing stickers in the hospital to send a clear message that our membership is unified behind our campaign demands! We’ll be taking pictures with the stickers and posting them to the local and HPAE Facebook page where they’ll be pushed out to a bigger audience. The only way we will be able to settle a fair contract on May 31st is if ALL members show their unity and commitment. One way is for all members who are working that day to wear these stickers and take pictures so that we can put pressure on the Hospital in the final two critical days of bargaining. Your unit rep will have the stickers to pass out over the next few days.

Concerted Activity

If we are unable to reach agreement on a contract on May 31st, we may put in a 10-day notice for an informational picket or a strike. If the Bargaining Committee chooses to hold an informational picket before giving notice for a strike, there is no withholding of work with an informational picket. Members who are scheduled to work go in as planned, while those not scheduled to work form a picket line outside of the Hospital at a set day and time. For an informational picket to be successful, we need ALL members who aren’t working on that day to engage in picketing. We will be holding a membership meeting on June 5th to either recommend ratification of a contract or plan for an informational picket, so please keep on HIGH ALERT for this CALL TO ACTION.

Potential Strike Q&A

If we are unable to come to an agreement on a contract, it may be necessary to call for a strike.

1. Will union leaders just call a strike?

No. Although we already have a nearly unanimous vote to authorize the bargaining committee to call for a strike, we will come back to the membership before making any decision about a strike. We will have another membership meeting on June 5th where we hope to recommend ratification of a contract. However, if we haven’t come to a tentative agreement at that time, we will plan for our informational picket or strike. If the Bargaining Committee chooses to hold informational picketing first and we still can’t get management to agree to a contract that we deserve and a strike becomes necessary, we will call another meeting of the membership to make a final decision on a strike.

2. If we go on strike, won’t they just replace us?

If we go on strike, management can hire replacement workers or “scabs.” They will probably use one of the agencies that specializes in supplying strike-breaker nurses. These are nurses that cannot get jobs anywhere else and have been found responsible for patient deaths in several hospitals during strikes. They are very expensive and will cost management a lot of money to use. Virtua can’t find nurses to fill all the vacancies we currently have, finding permanent replacements for all of us will be impossible at this time.

Immigration laws prohibit them from replacing us with foreign nurses.

3. If we go on strike, won’t they just fire us?

We have a legal right to strike. It would be unlawful for the hospital to threaten to fire us for exercising our legal right. They may threaten to replace us either temporarily or permanently, but they cannot offer permanent replacements (scabs) anything more than what they are offering us at the time.

More importantly, we must pledge to each other that should the hospital threaten to permanently replace any one of us, we will stand by each other and require that job protection is part of the new contract.

4. Does HPAE have a strike fund?

HPAE has a fund to help union members who have very serious financial problems during a strike. We also have a fund to provide legal, material, and other assistance to a local union that is on strike. Finally, our national union, the American Federation of Teachers, has provided financial assistance to HPAE in previous strikes.

5. What do I say to my supervisor or manager about a possible strike?

You don’t have to say anything, but the best thing to say is: “I am supporting my union because we need a contract that allows Virtua to retain and recruit staff, and provide quality patient care. If you want to avoid a strike, tell the CEO to negotiate a contract which addresses these important issues.”

6. My manager has told me that I could be charged with patient abandonment by going on strike. Is this true?  

No, in no case is an employee (probationary or otherwise) who goes on strike subject to any charge of patient abandonment. Management will be given a ten-day notice in order to prepare for the strike. As of the strike deadline, the hospital administration is legally responsible for the care of all patients in their facility. The individual nurses are not.

Obviously we do not want any nurse to leave in the middle of a critical procedure or life threatening situation. (e.g. responding to a code or in an operating room).

7. I am still on probation; can I be fired for going on strike?

No, as a probationary employee you have the same legally protected right to strike as any other employee.

8. If I go on strike, will I lose my healthcare coverage?

In the event the employer stops paying health insurance premiums, you can continue coverage. Under the COBRA law as long as you pay the monthly premium your current coverage can continue uninterrupted for up to eighteen (18) months. As long as your address is current with the plan administrator you will receive notification of COBRA benefits by mail.

9. Can I collect unemployment during a strike?

Yes. Under New Jersey’s unemployment law, unemployment insurance benefits are paid either after a 14-day waiting period (if no replacement workers are hired/reassigned from existing staff to cover our work) or immediately – if replacement workers are used.  There is also no waiting period if an issue in the strike is the employer’s failure to comply with an agreement, contract, or law pertaining to hours, wages, or working conditions.

In solidarity,

Your Local 5105 Bargaining Committee