The California Nurses Association decided Monday to approve a four-year contract to increase salaries after almost two years of negotiation with the University of California.
The contract includes a 12-percent wage increase over four years and changed language that further cements programs preventing workplace violence and harassment. Over 14,000 nurses will be affected by the agreement.
CNA members went on strike in March to support the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees’ bargaining efforts. AFSCME Local 3299 is the largest UC worker union and consists of service workers across all UC campuses. CNA voted to strike in solidarity with service workers like custodians, security guards and groundskeepers, many of whom work in medical centers.
Dwaine B. Duckett, UC’s vice president of Human Resources, said he was grateful for the nurses’ service to the UC’s patients across the five hospital systems and 10 student health centers. He added he thinks both sides negotiated a contract beneficial to nurses needing higher salaries to meet the high cost of living in Los Angeles, and within the UC’s financial limitations as a public university.
The contract includes annual wage increases of 3 percent over the next four years in addition to experience-based step increases. Step increases occur depending on where the nurse is placed in the location’s hiring plan. Step increases range from 4 percent to 7 percent.
The 12-percent wage increase will help retain experienced nurses and recruit qualified nurses, according to a CNA news release.
Under the new contract, newly-hired nurses will receive the same retirement benefits as current UC nurses until April 2020. At that time, either side has the option to reopen the issue for further negotiation.
The agreement includes staffing numbers based on patient need and severity rather than budget, increased workplace violence and sexual harassment protections and strengthened infectious disease protection, according to the release.
Randy Howell, a UC San Francisco nurse and bargaining team member, said she thinks the contract is a tremendous accomplishment for both the nurses’ safety and the safety of the patients they care for.
“And this is all happened in an environment where corporate forces are constantly trying to attack unions. UC nurses stood union strong, and we used our collective voice to win an agreement that is going to benefit patients all over California for years to come,” said Howell.
California law already requires every employer in the state have a Workplace Violence Prevention program. Health care employers are additionally required to ensure trained staff is available to respond to workplace violence immediately, assign staff to reduce patient violence without conflicting job assignments and help prevent patients or visitors from bringing in weapons.
CNA was part of the lobbying effort that led to the passage of the California Workplace Violence Prevention in Healthcare regulations that went into effect April 2017.
Maureen Berry, a CNA member, said the language in the new contract explicitly states that the the UC is responsible for keeping nurses safe.