Rochester Regional Health, nurse’s union still unable to reach agreement

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Management at Rochester General Hospital and the union that represents its nurses still haven’t agreed on a contract, according to Rochester Regional Health’s website.

The two groups met on Thursday for their 19th collective bargaining session since negotiations began last October. RGH says they presented two packages of proposals to address calls from RUNAP (Rochester Union of Nurses and Allied Professionals) such a plan to retain staff. RUNAP said on their Facebook that they presented counter-proposals.

The session came two weeks after RGH nurses went on two-day strike after the union and the hospital couldn’t reach a contract agreement. Nurses picketed around the hospital’s main entrance, calling for fairer wages and more staffing. The strike didn’t impact patient care.

Thursday’s bargaining session ran from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and parties met separately with a federal mediator. Here is what the first package called for, according to RGH:

  • Staffing: RGH’s counterproposal maintained much of the hospital’s previous language, including that the Clinical Staffing Committee would establish staffing grids/ratios. However, RGH’s counterproposal also outlined additional commitments the Union and the hospital would take to address a staffing issue. The process outlined in the counterproposal specifies the timing for when the Union must file a staffing complaint, the time the hospital has to identify and implement a solution to address the complaint and the review period to determine if the hospital remained compliant once the solution was implemented.
  • Temporary Reassignment (Floating): RGH’s revised counterproposal includes language to further define where RNs can and cannot be floated within the hospital, based on their clinical groups.
  • Attendance and Tardiness: RGH maintained its previous counterproposal on this topic which defines excused absences, unexcused and unscheduled absences. RGH’s counterproposal also details the process to implement counseling or discipline for excessive unscheduled absences or tardiness.
  • Low Census: RGH maintained its previous counterproposal on this topic, which details the process for temporarily reducing nursing staff on a unit if there are not enough patients to care for.
  • Hours, Overtime, On-Call and Schedules: RGH maintained its previous counterproposal on this topic, which specifies working hours, meal breaks, overtime eligibility, on-call criteria, schedules and shift rotation efforts.

Here is the second package:

  • Paid Leaves of Absence: In an effort to find areas of compromise with the Union and aid in retention, RGH’s counterproposal would allow nurses to add two additional unpaid shifts to approved bereavement leave for a member of their immediate family. RGH’s counterproposal also specifies that employees may take accrued vacation time to extend bereavement leave beyond the three days of paid leave the hospital previously proposed, and these requests will not be unreasonably denied.
  • Unpaid Leaves of Absence: RGH made a minor change to this proposal and otherwise maintained its previous counterproposal on this topic which specifies the circumstances around unpaid leave, as well as return to work options for employees who take leave.
  • Paid Sick Time: RGH maintained its previous counterproposal on this topic which states sick time and employee eligibility to use that time will be defined by the New York State Sick Leave law (NYSSL). RGH also maintained that sick time usage would be limited to 56 hours per year, which is consistent with current policy.

RUNAP said on its Facebook that RGH management didn’t respond to their counter proposals on Thursday. The union says the proposals would maintain loopholes to allow staffing shortages to continue.

“While we thought after our last session that management was taking our proposals more seriously after the strike, today, they seemed back to the same old, same old,” said RUNAP.

Here are the counter proposals:

  • Management Rights and Union Security: In response to management’s proposals on the same from our last session. We altered our language on management rights to be more concise.
  • Staffing: Containing proposals on temporary reassignment/floating, low census/cancellation, and attendance/tardiness; this package was in response to management’s package proposal today.

The union says they agreed with RGH management to hold a smaller meeting directed at staffing issues on Aug. 30. After that, RGH and the union will meet next on Sept. 11.

RUNAP represents about 900 nurses and other professionals. RUNAP also met with RGH management on Friday, Aug. 11. The nurses unionized last year and are trying to reach their first ever contract.