After the negotiating committee announced a tentative agreement, nurses at Geisinger Community Medical Center (GCMC) voted on April 17th to ratify the new contract. The agreement received overwhelming support, with 98% of nurses voting in favor of ratification. Registered Nurses at GCMC are represented by PASNAP, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, and worked for over six months to hammer out a deal that would improve staffing and wages.
“While wages are rarely the primary issue in contract negotiations for Registered Nurses, in this case improving RN wages was directly related to staffing conditions,” said Bill Cruice, PASNAP Executive Director. “For as long as anyone can remember, wages at Geisinger Scranton lagged 6-10% behind Geisinger Wilkes-Barre. This was a key factor in the recruitment and retention crisis at the hospital, and also a serious drain on morale. Effective immediately upon ratification of this contract, we’ve erased that gap and won wage parity.”
GCMC nurses will see immediate raises as parity takes effect, and most will see wages increase 9-14% over the two years of the contract.
In addition to the significant wage improvements, Geisinger has committed in writing to hire and retain at least 150 new full-time Registered Nurses during the two-year contract period.
“Staffing has been a major issue at the hospital. We want our patients to get the best quality care, and we can’t provide that when we’re understaffed. So we tried in these negotiations to attack the problem from multiple angles,” said Roben Schwartz, RN, the president of the union at GCMC. “It wasn’t enough just to commit to hiring more nurses. We also needed wage parity so that we can recruit good nurses and keep them here. We’re thrilled that we won both.”
The hospital will hire at least 100 of the new nurses by August 30, 2018. If the hospital fails to meet hiring goals, they’ll return to negotiations to discuss additional improvements to help recruit and retain nurses. Other staffing improvements will include a nurse-majority committee that will review staffing problems and recommend solutions.
The agreement also enhances retirement benefits. Beginning in 2018, nurses will no longer be required to contribute to the retirement program in order to receive their employer contribution from Geisinger. The hospital will contribute 5% total wages into nurses’ retirement accounts, an improvement from the old plan in which the average contribution was about 3.5%.
“We’re so proud of this agreement,” said Shannon Reichard, RN. “We had to fight for it, but the result shows Geisinger giving us the respect we deserve and working to address our concerns. We’re excited to implement and build upon all of these improvements that will enhance patient care and help us recruit and retain great nurses.”