Health and Wellness

Letter: Front Line Nurses Fighting COVID-19 Now Fighting for their Jobs

Dear, New Jersey,

We are the nurses who have taken care of you or your loved ones during CoVid and throughout every other crisis; we did so willingly despite the danger it presented in our own lives. We lost some of our colleagues to CoVid, but we still continued to show up to work every day because of you. We were there because your lives matter and that means our jobs must be done. However, our contract with HMH is up in just a few days and they finally sent us their economic proposals today. Read through them yourself and you’ll understand that the message is clear: we are not valued at all by HMH despite all of our sacrifices throughout this.

What we want is simple. We are asking that you stand up for us and help us in this fight. Just as you need us, we now need you. Please join us in this fight by sharing this status and contacting the people in power who can help us. Don’t allow them to destroy everything we have worked so hard to build because we have done so in order to provide the best care possible to all of you.

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Today, HMH proposed the following changes to our contract. Please note that this is not a complete list. Since we received these proposals late, the bargaining committee is going to spend the evening going over every detail. Proposals by HMH are as follows.

  • Raises that are unequal to the raises of nurses at all of the other facilities that they “harmonized pay for”, including less money for new nurses. Starting rate for new hires about $4/hour less than offered at OMC, Riverview and other non-union HMH hospitals nearby.
  • No float districts. All nurses can be floated to any unit. That means that they could send a NICU nurse to the MICU to take care of adults if they so choose. Technically because I have PALS, they could send me to peds when I haven’t taken care of a single child since nursing school. Also they want elimination of all rules around floating, including no floating for less than 1 year and no floating for more than 10 years. That means a brand new nurse could be floated to critical care…that’s terrifying. I’ve worked somewhere where we were a skeleton staff and floated all over. It’s tough, and it’s dangerous.
  • Elimination of the open shift and extra shift program. No incentives for extra shifts/overtime shifts. Elimination of critical shift bonus. This is literally the only way we are able to get fully staffed because people pick up these shifts for extra money. No one will work these incredibly short-staffed shifts otherwise.
  • No limit on the duties that a nurse must perform, forcing every nurse to take the work of other crucial staff in the hospital such as EVS, transport, etc.
  • Disbanding the float pool as we know it. Float pool differentials (updated to add: they have offered a small amount for floating that the float pool would not accept because let’s face it, their job is tough) and only a small core of per diem nurses to be utilized as coverage. We nurses who don’t have a ton of years under our belts rely on the float pool to cover our denied PTO (and it’s always denied) or we get no vacation yearly. We rely on them to fill the 100 positions we have open in our hospital. We cannot work without a float pool.
  • No BSN certification extra pay. It’s all into income, whether you have your BSN or not. Currently, I make $1.50 extra per hour to have my BSN and everyone is required to get theirs due to the magnet status.
  • Convert hourly certification differential to a $2500 bonus. This is paid at $2.00/hr currently and $0.75 for the second certification. As a bonus, they get to write it off and we have to pay 40% taxes on it so we lose money.
  • A 30-year pay scale that will not improve the wages of nurses with more experience and does not take any international experience into account. You’re essentially being told you’re not worth anything extra if you have more experience. It’s like they’re trying to force early retirement to save money on hiring new grads.
  • Rollbacks on all Health Insurance protections we won in the last contract. I rely on affordable health insurance to make up for our horrible pay. It’s truly shameful what I make per hour.
  • Elimination of the CARE program. This program gives us up to $5 extra an hour for helping to maintain our Magnet status and it is a lot of work.
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We support the public and now more than ever, we need you to support us.

Signed,

A New Jersey Nurse

Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

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