NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — The 325 nurses of Cooley Dickinson Hospital (CDH), who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), voted Wednesday to ratify a new union contract that provides strong workplace violence protections and ground-breaking gender identity anti-discrimination language.
“For nurses, this was all about securing improvements and working conditions that make for an overall better patient experience,” said Kim O’Connor, RN and co-chair of the MNA CDH Bargaining Committee. “This contract will promote a culture of safety and equality. The strong workplace violence protections we secured will make the hospital a safer place for everyone. The anti-discrimination language will mean a more equitable work environment. Our salary agreement was not about huge financial gains for nurses, but rather recognition for each RN in their specialty area of practice, and affirming the value of every nurse.”
The new MNA CDH contract includes the following improvements:
· Workplace Violence: A new section of the contract protecting staff by removing their last name from badges and by the creation of a new hospital wide policy that will become part of the contract, entitled "Prevention of Workplace Violence or Abuse,” that provides for a system for prevention, training, reporting and response to threats.
· Anti-Discrimination Language: The new language adds gender identity or gender expression to the protected categories in the MNA contract, thereby affirming full rights and protection from discrimination. The contract also expands the definition of pronouns beyond “he/she” to include persons identified with non-binary genders.
· Improved RN Wages: The elimination of the lowest pay grade moved 89 percent of nurses to a higher salary grade, demonstrating that the hospital properly values the specialization and training of every CDH nurse; moved permanent charge shift nurses to a higher salary grade; increased night shift pay and preceptor pay – changes aimed at helping nurse recruitment, retention, mentoring and education.
· Human Dignity and Respect: Added a new provision in the beginning of the contract that promises “harmonious relations between the Hospital and the Association,” “the establishment of an equitable relationship” and an agreement that the Hospital and Association “will treat each other with human dignity and respect.”
“New language on workplace violence and a hospital-wide policy will ensure that not only nurses but every employee of the hospital will be better protected,” said Andrea Fox, RN, an Associate Director in the MNA’s Division of Labor Action. “Just this week Cooley Dickinson Hospital announced the hiring of a new director of LGBTQ services. The nurses’ new contract language advances and complements these efforts by adding gender identity and expression protections.”
The agreement, negotiated on January 20, covers a three-year period starting Jan. 22, 2017. It will expire Jan. 21, 2020. Negotiations began in November 2016 and lasted nine sessions. CHD nurses voted overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.