California Nurses, University of California system reach tentative contract agreement

The California Nurses Association announced on September 15th, that it had finally reached a tentative contract with the University of California system. The agreement comes after over 20 months of negotiations with the system on behalf of over 14,000 registered nurses that staff university medical centers, student health centers, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The contract disputes centered around wages increases, workplace violence and sexual harassment protections, and infectious disease protections.

In May 2018, the nurses joined with roughly 43,000 health care professionals, service, technical and research workers to strike against the system. The system had offered a meager 3 percent wage increase, but had refused to institute protections against independent contractors or boost retirement benefits. While protections were put in place to maintain patient care, the action reinforced the workers’ commitment to wage equity and protection the say will improve the overall quality of patient care.

While the other service employees still do not have a contract, the CNA is celebrating the tentative agreement, which if approved, will increase nurse wages by 15 percent over the next 5 years, through October 2022.

“This is such a tremendous accomplishment by nurses throughout the state, who stood strong for our patients and won the protections that they deserve—because we will never stop advocating for safe patient care and for the rights of nurses as we provide that care,” said UCSF RN and bargaining team member Randy Howell, RN.  “And this is all happened in an environment where corporate forces are constantly trying to attack unions. UC nurses stood union strong, and we used our collective voice to win an agreement that is going to benefit patients all over California for years to come.”

Other details of the agreement include:

  • Protected staffing based on patient acuity, not budgetary concerns;
  • Improved protections around shift rotation;
  • Ensured right take meal and rest breaks;
  • Added incentive wages to address economic disparity for a number of locations and job classifications to attract and retain experienced employees;
  • Strengthened policies and agreements regarding improved equipment necessary to control the spread of communicable diseases in the hospital; and
  • Preserved and protected pension benefits.

The full membership of the association is expected to vote on the agreement over the next week. In comments to the Sacramento Bee, a spokeswoman for the University of California, Dianne Klein indicated the system is also satisfied with the deal.

“They wanted to make a deal, we wanted a deal and we are happy with this tentative agreement.”