Federation of Nurses/UFT members employed by NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn on Feb. 24 overwhelmingly ratified a three-year contract that provides solid salary increases while making inroads in addressing the universal problem of staffing shortages.
The contract includes a 4% pay hike effective March 1, 2022, a 3% increase effective March 1, 2023, and another 3% hike on March 1, 2024, a 10.33% compounded increase in a 24-month span.
The agreement also provides for an increase in staffing, with more than 100 positions for registered nurses to be posted by March 1, 2022, along with an expedited hiring and recruiting process. It strengthens a staffing subcommittee to better hold the hospital accountable to posting and selection timelines and to overall staffing commitments.
In addition, the contract creates a panel of three arbitrators to hear staffing shortage cases once a month, streamlining an often arduous process. Currently, more than 2,100 staffing grievances are in the arbitration process.
“Besides a very strong economic settlement,” said UFT Vice President Anne Goldman, who leads the Federation of Nurses/UFT, the contract begins a “culture shift” in relation to staffing.
“Nowhere in the country has anyone done more than we have,” she said. “But staffing is so bad that it’s a moral insult to our nurses, and we have really bargained hard to have the employer become part of the solution.”
The improvement to the arbitration process, she said, “will allow us in a quicker manner to focus the attention on staffing shortages and deficiencies.”
This spotlight on staffing, she said, “can show the public how important it is to have the right nurse-to-patient ratios and to have the correct skill mix so all patients can get the correct care, without regard for their socioeconomic, cultural or gender differences.”
Howard Sandau, the NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn chapter leader and a member of the negotiating team, explained just how challenging the current arbitration process has been.
“We have been fighting staffing issues for years and years and years,” he said. “We took a case to arbitration that took over a year, but we had an arbitrator sustain our staffing grievance, recognizing that NYU was short-staffing the units at the hospital.”
Negotiators, Goldman said, also spent countless hours bargaining “about aspects of this contract we prescribed to help our nurses thrive,” such as precepting, mentoring and educational support.
“We’re supporting our new graduates, who are a large part of our workforce,” Goldman said. These new grads, she noted, went to school during the pandemic and did not have the typical clinical experiences. And yet, she said, “we’re asking them to work as if they were seasoned veterans.”
The agreement ensures that new graduates will earn 100% of the base salary from their first day on the job. It also increases the education differential, expands the experience differential and increases per diem rates.
The nurses’ health insurance plan, which continues to be fully funded by the employer, and the defined-benefit pension plan were both preserved in the new contract.
“We’re absolutely thrilled that we were able to come to an agreement that recognizes the nurses for the incredible heroes they are,” said Sandau. “We’ve protected the nurses and certainly the patients and the community by coming to an agreement that recognizes the nurses financially and provides for additional staffing that is going to help tremendously.”