Testimony by Anne Parrish to the New York City Committee on Civil Service & Labor, Feb. 12, 2004.
Good Afternoon. My name is Anne Parrish. I am a Registered Nurse and Associate Director of the Economic and General Welfare Program of the New York State Nurses Association, the largest union of Registered Nurses in New York State and the only union that exclusively represents the interests of New York State’s Registered Nurses.
Overtime pay is an essential protection for employees. It ensures that they are compensated fairly for doing such work and protects them from having to work dangerous and excessive hours by making it more costly for employers.
Expanding the number of professional workers, such as Registered Nurses, who are exempt from overtime protections, will eliminate the financial disincentive associated with the use of overtime and could increase the already excessive use of mandatory overtime as a staffing strategy in health care institutions.
This is what these changes in regulation will likely mean for Registered Nurses: longer hours, less pay, and increased use of mandatory overtime, a form of indentured servitude.
Recent research by the Institute of Medicine and the New York State Education Department confirms that mandatory overtime, and other stressful working conditions, are driving RNs from the profession and contributing significantly to the nursing shortage. Mandatory overtime also increases the risk of medical errors and undermines patient safety.
The money that nurses are paid for overtime is not used for luxuries. Most overtime pay is used to put food on the table and clothes on the backs of our children.
Although these changes will not affect NYSNA RNs who have negotiated overtime pay in their current collective bargaining contracts, they do mean that overtime pay will become one more provision that nurses will have to fight hard for at the bargaining table.
The New York State Nurses Association strongly opposes these changes in overtime pay regulations, and we urge the City Council to take whatever steps are necessary to let President Bush and the Congress know that they are unfair and irrational. EVERYONE who is concerned about patient safety and about strengthening – NOT destroying -- our healthcare system should oppose these changes.
For more information, contact Governmental Affairs at 518.782.9400, ext. 283 or by e-mail.