Stanford Hospital and its nurses' union have reached a tentative contract agreement after a more than 7-month stalemate that threatened to force a hospital strike.
A federal mediator was thanked by both parties for his "extraordinary efforts" in helping reach the agreement.
Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and the union, Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA), announced the agreement on Thursday (Dec. 9).
"The Hospitals are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA)," Robert Dicks, spokesman for the hospitals, said.
"The tentative agreement includes significant wage increases, a $3000 bonus if ratified by December 15, a new Professional Nurse Development Program, an increase in paid time off, plus improved health benefits and more."
Union representatives could not be reached directly for comment.
The tentative agreements are subject to ratification by CRONA members. The union will hold informational meetings with nurses starting Dec. 9, and a ratification vote will be held on Dec. 13, according to a joint press release.
Hospital officials shut down negotiations on April 7 and rejected union requests to return to the bargaining table, including a request for a cooling-off period through Dec. 31.
The contract dispute involved several elements: the Professional Nurse Development Program, which defines promotions for upper-level nurses; paid time off and sick leave.
On Aug. 1, U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo made a formal request for the hospitals to return to negotiations through a federal mediator. Both sides said the mediator was key in getting the issues resolved.
"The parties wish to thank the federal mediator, Greg Lim, for his extraordinary efforts over the past few months in assisting the parties," officials said in a joint statement.
Under the tentative contract, nurses would receive a $3,000 signing bonus and retroactive pay increases to March 31. Health benefits would match those of other employees.
Clinical nurses will receive a 4-percent pay increase for each year of the 3-year contract. Upper-tier staff nurses will receive a 4-percent increase for the first year and 2-percent raises for each subsequent year, according to the agreement.
The hospitals can alter benefits but must notify CRONA and must meet with union representatives, who will have a say in the changes. If both sides can't agree, the nurses would retain the existing benefits, according to the agreement.
Two areas of contention during negotiations, paid-time off and the Professional Nurse Development Program, which guides and determines promotions, were modified.
Staff and clinical nurses can accrue no more than 520 hours of paid time off and would lose accrual of any hours over that amount. The hospital must offer more paid-time off and set a date for taking time off if the nurse has at least 480 hours of paid-time accrued and has asked for time off three times in advance and it was not granted.
Cash-outs, which allow nurses to convert their paid-time off into payments, are also limited. In emergency sick-leave cases, cash-outs would cover the nurse's wage but not any "differential" pay, such as increased hourly rates for night duty or relief work, except under certain circumstances.
Bereavements would be limited to three days but extensions would be at the discretion of managers. Nurses being investigated for disciplinary action for more than two weeks would be placed on paid leave.
One of the most controversial parts of the negotiations involved how nurses would advance.
The two sides negotiated a Professional Nurse Development Program (PDNP), which is to improve nursing practice. But the hospitals have agreed it would not be used to cap the number of nurses who can achieve upper-level status -- something that union officials and any nurses feared could occur to help the hospitals keep costs down.
The union objected during earlier negotiations to having a PDNP selection panel to determine which nurse advances, saying the panel could not accurately evaluate a nurse's performance since it does not interact daily with the nurse.
Under the new contract, the panel would be comprised of four staff nurses and four specialists, such as nurse scientists, nurse managers and others. A nurse would have the right to appeal any decision.
Further information about the meetings and the election will be provided by CRONA on the union's website and through e-mails. The tentative agreements can be viewed at www.crona.org.