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New contract for Staten Island Hospital nurses improves patient care

New York Teacher
UFT VP Anne Goldman gets an update on the progress of contract voting.
Miller Photography
UFT Vice President Anne Goldman (right) gets an update on the progress of contract voting from Nancy Miller, the chapter leader of the Staten Island Hospital nurses, as nurses Debra Straga (left) and Theresa D’Antonio check voter lists.

Nurses at Staten Island Hospital on March 27 overwhelmingly approved a three-year contract that increases wages, preserves health benefits and improves the patient-nurse staffing ratio.

“We stood our ground on quality of patient care and workplace issues,” declared Chapter Leader Nancy Miller. Miller pointed out that the negotiations were not just about wages and benefits, but also about changes to working conditions that would result in better patient care.

Additional nurses will be hired for three hospital units, which will reduce the number of patients in each nurse’s care.

The new contract features a wage increase of 2.25 percent in the first year and 2 percent in the second and third years. Nurses will receive larger annual step increases for years of service starting next year. A longevity award of $500 per year in addition to a new Step 30 differential were created for nurses with 30 or more years of service. The employer’s 7 percent contribution to the nurses’ 403(b) retirement savings planThe employer’s 7 percent contribution to the nurses’ 403(b) retirement savings plan will now be based on the nurse’s salary including overtime.

The agreement also keeps health benefits intact and preserves the nurses’ right to full tuition reimbursement for study at Wagner College on the island.

Denise Caracelli, one of the 204 nurses covered by the new contract, declared it a “tremendous victory.”

Negotiations began on March 1. After eight sessions, the two sides had hammered out a tentative agreement that was ratified five days before the old contract expired on April 1.

UFT Vice President Anne Goldman, who led the negotiations, attributed the speed and success of the negotiations to a collaborative spirit at the bargaining table, as both sides pulled together to address working conditions in an appropriate way.

“It took teamwork and mutual respect,” she said.

As part of the new contract, hospital administrators agreed to work with the nurses and their union to find ways to improve scores on patient satisfaction surveys. If scores are not high enough, Medicare can withhold hospital payments.

Goldman said that the joint initiative underscored the value of nurses’ insights into patient care and was an acknowledgment by management “that they can’t do this without us, that this is not a factory model workplace and that we must work together.”

The Staten Island Hospital nurses are celebrating their 20th anniversary as UFT members.

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