NEW YORK NURSE: December 2008
by Mark Genovese
In Sullivan County, it’s the registered nurses who lead the way.
The 62 RNs, represented by NYSNA, were the first local unionized public employees to run advertisements protesting the slow pace of contract negotiations, the first to conduct informational picketing, and the first to complete negotiations for a new contract.
They were upset that the two sides had met only nine times during the past 11 months and that management was often unprepared and slow to respond. So they worked with NYSNA to run advertisements in local media reporting the county had cut 12 RN positions from its 2008 budget and that the nurses felt they were stretched to the limit by additional patient responsibilities, paper work, and non-nurse duties.
They followed this with a picket by more than 40 RNs and supporters in front of the Sullivan County Government Center in Monticello and County Public Health offices in Liberty. This exposure of the county’s stall tactics was too much for county officials to handle.
Within four days, they reached a tentative agreement for a five-year contract.
RN salaries will increase 15.3% over the life of the agreement, in addition to a $1,250 cash bonus, and increased pay for longevity. They defeated management’s attempt to take away their NYSNA health benefits and won a stipend of $6,000 per year for retirees to purchase health insurance through age 65.
The RNs also won monetary recognition for the hazardous situations in which they often work.
“The community relies on us and the demand for our services isn’t going down,” said Martha Wilcox, bargaining unit president. “To continue to provide the quality care our patients deserve, we must retain our trained and loyal RNs and be able to attract new hires. That’s why we fought a long and tough fight to get a fair contract.”