A tentative contract has been reached with Allegheny General Hospital in Pennsylvania that will provide 3 percent raises to registered nurses for each of the next three years, as well as money to fund nurse projects such as education. Nurses voted on Friday to ratify this contract which will replace a three-year contract that expired last week.
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania spent three days negotiating the contract for more than 1,300 RNs working at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH). The contract received much praise for setting standards for nurses' rights in the state.
In addition to the 3 percent raise RNs will receive each year for the duration of the three year contract, nurses will obtain benefits such as lower nurse-to-patient ratios for nurses in five new departments and a $300,000 fund for nurse-chosen expenditures. This money will be set aside to use for education and training as well as recruiting or other needs determined by AGH nurses. Managers must sign off on expenses from this fund.
This contract comes in the midst of an economic recession in which the West Penn Allegheny Health System suffered the loss of millions of dollars. Under the new contract, pension contributions are maintained, and while raises are smaller than in the last contract, employees appreciate that they are making gains in this economic environment. Negotiating this contract was also an easier job than the 2006 contract, which involved advertising and rallies.
When this contract expires in 2012 the average nurse's wage is expected to be about $30.60 an hour.
Amongst the benefits of the new contract is decreased nurse-to-patient ratios. Safe staffing issues have recently been highlighted in the news as more organizations are compelled by data that demonstrates the benefits of appropriate nurse-to-patient ratios. Some states have made laws and are considering legislation mandating safe staffing practices. Pennsylvania has not yet created safe staffing legislation, but the state has restricted mandatory overtime for nurses.