ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) – A planned strike has been avoided as Rochester Regional Health reached a tentative agreement with the union representing hundreds of Rochester General Hospital nurses.
A deal was made late Wednesday night for a new 42-month contract with the Rochester Union of Nurses and Allied Professionals, or RUNAP. It follows a few dozen bargaining sessions over the last year.
Included in the new proposal to RGH were wage increases, which nurses have been calling for. Other concerns such as staffing concepts in the contract, and monetary penalties when staffing levels are not in compliance, were also addressed.
Lindsay Rockefeller is a nurse in Rochester General’s operating room. She says in her 15 years of experience, these movements from the hospital system are a first.
“It’s a relief. It’s a breath of fresh air. This has been a long, difficult journey with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears,” said Rockefeller, “The raises, and the staffing grids, and the fact they’re willing to take accountability for unsafe staffing is ultimately huge. This is 100 percent an improvement from the amount of time I’ve been here. It’s a huge win for the nurses and a huge win for the community.”
Leaders with Rochester Regional Health say the new contract, about three-and-a-half years long, meets the demands the union was asking for. RRH Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Eslinger adds it includes an average pay increase of roughly 11 percent for the first year.
“What we ultimately settled on is that we collectively agree that nurses should decide and have a strong voice in how we staff. We empowered our hospital staffing committee combined from both representatives from RUNAP and hospital nursing leaders to make those decisions. We also added an accountability measure in the contract to say that we’re all in this together and that we have to agree to have safe staffing,” said Eslinger.
Nurses like Rockefeller hope the decision will help to bring back some of the hundreds of nurses lost over the last few years.
“I understand their frustration. I’ve almost been at that point myself. I have heard from a few that have gone on to take travel contracts, and have been waiting for us to settle a contract to see what we got, and are willing to sign back on as permanent staff,” Rockefeller said, “Now, we can finally work toward making Rochester General the hospital it once was.”
The nurses’ union plans to vote on the contract Wednesday. If it is approved, it will then be ratified.
READ THE FULL JOINT STATEMENT FROM ROCHESTER GENERAL HOSPITAL AND THE ROCHESTER UNION OF NURSES & ALLIED PROFESSIONALS:
“Rochester General Hospital (RGH) and the Rochester Union of Nurses & Allied Professionals (RUNAP) are pleased to announce they have reached a tentative agreement (TA) for a 42-month contract for the more than 900 RUNAP-represented nurses at RGH. The tentative agreement was reached after 25 bargaining sessions over the past twelve months.
“We want to thank both the RGH and RUNAP bargaining teams and our RGH employees for the exceptional care and dedication they have given our patients and the Rochester community throughout this process,” said Tammy Snyder, President and Chief Operating Officer at Rochester General Hospital. “Two key issues for both sides were wages and staffing, and I’m pleased we were able to find common ground with the union on these and many other important issues.”
“We are proud of our RGH nurses who have stood united over the last fifteen months in their commitment to achieve advancements for patient care at our hospital. Tonight, we have reached a tentative agreement that addresses many of the concerns of our nurses. We are looking forward to working together with hospital management to provide the quality care that our community deserves,” said RUNAP President, Carmen Camelio, RN.
RGH’s Chief Nursing Officer Shari McDonald said, “this agreement represents an important step forward for our nurses and the communities we serve. Our nurses are exceptional, and I am excited to build upon our strong foundation of clinical nursing excellence.”
RUNAP leadership will now share the full TA with the nurses they represent and will encourage ratification of the agreement through a vote in the weeks ahead.