California Nurses Association and university reach tentative agreement

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After more than a year of negotiations, the California Nurses Association, or CNA, and the university came to a tentative five-year contract agreement that would provide additional protections for UC nurses.

The agreement would increase the nurses’ pay by 15 percent over the next five years, provide protections against infectious diseases and institute workplace violence and sexual harassment protections, according to a CNA press release. If approved after the nurses’ vote next week, the contract will impact 14,000 nurses from 10 student health centers, five UC medical centers and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“We think the tentative agreement we reached with the California Nurses Association is a good one that both sides worked hard to achieve,” UC Office of the President spokesperson Dianne Klein said in an email.

Shirley Toy, a UC Davis registered nurse, said the CNA and the UC system have been bargaining over the contract because of disagreements over a pension plan proposed by the university. This plan would have required nurses to work until the age of 65 in order to receive full retirement benefits. Toy said the university agreed to maintain the current pension for the next two years until a revised pension can be agreed upon with a new governor.

“It’s not realistic to have the pensions be delayed on a physical job,” Toy said. “If the UC wants to try to have us adopt the other pension again, we have the right to strike and will have to bargain again.”

The new contract agreement would also determine nurse staffing based on patient needs, and nurses would receive protections from working on unsafe assignments that require particular medical expertise, according to the release. Policy language would also be clarified to ensure nurses can take adequate breaks to eat and rest.

Protections against workplace violence and sexual harassment will be included in the contract as well, since health care professionals experience particularly high rates of workplace violence, according to the CNA press release. The release states that UC facilities will be required to have a “comprehensive” workplace violence prevention plan to protect nurses and patients from potential violence.

The agreement would also cover provisions to protect nurses from infectious diseases. According to the release, the contract would strengthen policies and access to equipment to prevent the spread of contagions in hospitals.

“UC nurses are thrilled to have a tentative agreement on a contract that improves patient care and safety and secures our pension,” Michelle Kay, a nurse practitioner at the Tang Center, said in an email. “UC Berkeley student health nurses are dramatically underpaid for our market and we were not successful is addressing this disparity, but we hope that more attention and funding will be directed to student health in future contracts.”

Contact Mallika Seshadri and Amanda Bradford at [email protected].