MID-CITY — Registered nurses at Saint John’s Health Center have reached a tentative labor agreement with hospital officials following more than a year of contentious negotiations that included threats of a walkout and lockout, officials with the California Nurses Association said Wednesday.

Key to the agreement are provisions nurses say will enhance patient protections, as well as protect health benefits and pensions, which will help retain experienced nurses and recruit new ones.

The contract must still be ratified by members of the union and membership meetings to review it have been scheduled for Friday and Saturday, union officials said. The California Nurses Association has represented roughly 500 nurses at Saint John’s since May of last year following nearly a decade-long effort to unionize. This is the first contract negotiated by union nurses.

“We are proud of this agreement, and when it is ratified … we will have won important safeguards for patients and increased patient advocacy rights for nurses,” said Lori Hammond, a registered nurse at the hospital for 33 years and a member of the bargaining team that helped craft the labor contract.

Lou Lazatin, president and CEO of Saint John’s, a private not-for-profit, Roman Catholic hospital, said she was “pleased to announce that our negotiating team reached an agreement … .”

According to the union, key provisions of the two-year contract include:

• Adherence to the state law requirements on safe staffing with minimum RN-to-patient ratios, with arbitration for addressing disputes on staffing issues.

• Restrictions on assigning RNs to clinical areas for which they do not have demonstrated clinical expertise and orientation.

• Compliance with the new state law on safe lifting policies to reduce patient falls and accidents and RN injuries associated with lifting of patients.

• Establishment of a seven member Professional Practice Committee of nurses elected by their colleagues to meet with management to discuss patient care issues.

• Assurance that new technology not be used to displace RN professional judgment or undermine patient care or RN jobs.

• Wage increases, retroactive to last December of up to 5 percent the first year, and up to 7 percent the second year, depending on length of service at the hospital.

• No cuts in RN health benefits or pension plans.

• Just cause disciplinary rights for RNs.

 

kevinh@smdp.com

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