05/18/2012

Connecticut nurses secure first contract

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Backus Federation of Nurses ContractPhoto: AFT Connecticut

After nearly 10 months of negotiations, the members of the Backus Federation of Nurses at William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, Conn., have secured their first collective bargaining contract. The three-year contract, which covers 400 registered nurses at the hospital, was reached just more than one year after the Backus nurses voted to unionize. (See earlier story.)

"This has been a long battle for us as a union," says John Brady, a registered nurse in the emergency department. "The support we received from AFT Connecticut and AFT nationally was instrumental in our success."

The contract includes safe-working provisions as well as professional and economic standards. These provisions will help recruit and retain experienced nurses, the union says. The contract recognizes the obligation of both the union and the hospital to provide a safe working environment. Workplace safety has become an important issue for healthcare workers as injuries to nurses have increased over the last few years. AFT Connecticut lobbied for state legislation to improve workplace safety in hospitals.

The contract also creates a labor-management committee, which will give the nurses a vehicle to meet with management to discuss ways to improve patient safety and care in the hospital. A recent study released by Cornell University shows that labor-management partnerships can be beneficial to both nurses and the institution, while improving patient care and controlling costs. The report includes several case studies of hospitals where labor-management partnerships have led to real results.

"These provisions will give us a voice in making our hospital the community hospital it once was," says Michelle Hayes, a registered nurse in maternity and delivery. "We will be able to get back to focusing on putting patients first." The tentative agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by the nurses on May 16, and will take effect immediately. [Eric Excell-Bailey/AFT Connecticut]

May 18, 2012