Roughly 400 registered nurses represented by the California Nurses Association ratified a new four-year labor contract with Oroville Hospital late Wednesday, negotiating wage increases of 12 percent over the life of their contract
The nurses also secured a number of preventive measures and protections to help them in the event of outbreaks of communicable diseases, during emergencies and disasters, and in combating and dealing with workplace violence, said Joe Henry, the lead negotiator for the Oroville RN’s.
When bargaining began in January, Henry said, the negotiating team set out to improve the safety of working conditions because they felt this was crucial to lowering the turnover rate for registered nurses at the hospital. A quarter of the RNs have been there only a year, he said, and half have been there less than three years.
Many nurses leave, Henry said, because not enough attention is paid to their health, well-being and security.
“We’ve had some horrendous cases of workplace violence, for instance,” he said. “One nurse was choked with her stethoscope by a patient and a pregnant nurse who was kicked by a patient....We really set out to try and improve staffing conditions, and we feel that we’ve done that. Now that we have the language, it’s about making sure that the language gets enforced. If it does, we really believe this language will go a long way toward helping us reduce violence.”
If subjected to workplace violence, as defined by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, nurses no longer will get written up if they take time off to recover from the incident, Henry said.
In a news release from the union, registered nurse Ea Thao stated: “Safety matters. Bargaining is a process and thanks to the unity and advocacy of our nurses and the actions they took, we were able to obtain strong language on safe staffing. Now it’s time to ensure this language is upheld so that workplace conditions and patient care standards at Oroville Hospital improve.”
Besides new language on workplace violence, nurses also negotiated a seat at the table when preparing for disasters, emergencies and outbreaks of communicable diseases, Henry said. They now will have a greater role in assessing hospital safety and security measures and ensuring appropriate staffing levels during flu season and other disease outbreaks, he said.
Nurses also secured language that ensures they will get regular shift updates on the hospital’s emergency plan during wildfires, access to masks that can filter out harmful air and scrubbers that will clean the air inside the hospital, Henry said. In addition, he said, nurses will be allowed to donate vacation hours to co-workers displaced by wildfire.
In addition to wage increases, the nurses also will receive extra pay for when they work less-than-desirable shifts, also known as shift differentials, as well as stepped increases in wages as they reach new grades in their level of experience and performance. The prior CNA contract had expired March 2.
Oroville Hospital’s leaders are investing in a $200 million expansion of their facilities and expect to add 700 jobs to their employment rolls by 2022. With the addition of a five-story tower, the hospital will grow to 211 beds from 133 today.