ONA and TCH met this last Monday, November 7th, to negotiate the terms of TCH’s new Influenza Policy. The ONA team worked hard to obtain a modification to the new Influenza policy, knowing that if we could not come to some sort of an agreement, there would be an impasse and then THC could and would implement the policy in its full, original form. We went in hoping to use the Interest Based Bargaining approach, but TCH was hard set in its position regarding the policy and it did not appear, at first, that they were interested in our concerns. After some heated discussion, where we acknowledged TCH’s concerns, and expressed support for vaccinations, the TCH team began hearing our concerns, and we were able to come to a compromise, and are now waiting for a letter of agreement.
The new Letter of Agreement will call for nurses to be vaccinated and those who are will have a red dot placed on the back of their badge (instead of on the front). In addition, if there is a declaration of an Influenza outbreak, those nurses who have not had the shot will need to wear a mask, but the areas for which a mask will be required will be narrowed to patient rooms, within six feet of a patient, or when moving a patient on a gurney for the first year of this agreement. Previously, the masks were going to be required in nearly all areas of the hospital at all times. TCH has also committed to better communication and education in the future and will review individual situations on a case by case basis; i.e. the nurse who is both allergic to the flu and who also has respiratory reasons as to not being able to wear a mask. As an additional piece, in order to reach the compromise on the reduced areas of the hospital where a mask is worn in the first year (this year), TCH asked us to agree to the policy regarding the masks to be expanded to all patients areas as originally described the following year. We were uncomfortable with that, and, after further discussion, TCH proposed that if the nurses are 95% vaccination compliant within each unit by Year 2, the scope of the mask wearing by non-compliant nurses will continue to be limited to the patient rooms, within six feet of a patient, or when moving a patient. So, what this means is that if only 92% of the nurses are compliant in any given unit, then in year two of the policy masks will need to be worn at all times as listed in the original policy. The Team accepted this counter-proposal and felt we could reasonably meet that objective, as we do recognize the importance of influenza vaccinations.
While it would have been ideal to have an agreement to no wearing of masks, your Team realized going into these negotiations that we would not prevail on that issue in its entirety and feel that the outcome of the negotiations meets in the middle of both the interests of the hospital and our nurses. The ONA team consisted of RN Cindy Kistler, RN Elizabeth Maisel, RN Kelli Carlson and ONA Labor Representative Tresa Cavanaugh.
To keep up with the latest updates, click here to go to the Tuality Community Hospital bargaining unit webpage