University of Kansas Hospital nurses reject labor contract - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

University of Kansas Hospital nurses reject labor contract

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Thousands of nurses are facing big changes on the job because of a disagreement between their union and the University of Kansas Hospital and right now the hospital and nurses' union are at odds over a contract.

A rejected union contract has never happened in the history of the Kansas University Nurses' Association.

Kansas labor laws mean people won't see the nurses strike at the University of Kansas Hospital, but they could just see nurses leave their jobs.

Emily Harvey is an operating room nurse at the hospital and is also the local president of the nurse's union.

"We provide great patient care here. We're a magnet status hospital which relies on excellent nursing care," she said.

She said it's the excellent skills the hospital just might lose because of a contract riddled with cuts.

"The fact that there's a lot of financial cuts means that nurses may be leaving to go to other hospitals. I personally know of a few nurses that have sought out other hospitals," Harvey said.

The nurse's union rejected the contract for the first time in its history, saying the contract cut premium pay for night and weekend shifts, tuition reimbursement and paid time off. The contract did, though, include a 2 percent raise.

Harvey said the raise doesn't offset the other cuts. She said the cuts would mean, in her case, losing a few thousand dollars a year in pay and $500 in tuition reimbursement.

"Tuition reimbursement is extremely important. Today it's really hard to justify getting student loans to better your career," she said.

Jill Chadwick with the hospital said she doesn't agree with the argument that employees would lose thousands.

"The hospital maintains nurses who work her (Harvey's) same shift, same hourly rate, stand to make an extra $500 next year," Chadwick wrote in an e-mail to KCTV5.

Because of Kansas Public Sector Labor Laws, the union cannot play the usual bargaining chip.

"We cannot strike. We basically just have to stand together," Harvey said.

The University of Kansas Hospital offered a written statement regarding the compromise talks.

"Hospital leadership has pledged to do everything to maintain the high level of patient care and to avoid the layoffs other hospitals locally and nationally have gone through in the last several months."

More legislation to further alter labor laws against unions is expected to come around in January, which could complicate negotiations if an agreement isn't reached by then.

The nurses' association said that the average nurse's salary at the hospital are already lagging behind other medical centers in the metro, despite the hospital's strong financial performance.

Chadwick refutes the claim, saying their hospital is in the top 75 percent in town for pay.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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