Threat of US nurse strike sees ‘tentative agreement’ reached

On Tuesday, the New York State Nurses Association announced a “tentative agreement” with Mount Sinai, Montefiore and New York Presbyterian hospitals systems.

“Nurse staffing will be based on safe staffing ratios that will be included in the collective bargaining agreements”

NYSNA statement

Around 10,000 nurses had originally been set to go on strike on 2 April but this action was postponed due to the start of the latest round of negotiations.

The deal could signal the end of years of campaigning by nurses in New York for the introduction of minimum ratios of nurses to patients.

The proposals in the agreement, which comes in the form of a four-year contract that would expire on 31 December 2022, will now go for a full vote by our members, noted the union.

The tentative agreement includes “historic staffing ratio language” calling for the initial hiring of more than 1,450 nurses, said the union in a statement.

This initial recruitment will include nurses to fill current vacancies, and will also include an additional $100 million dollars to hire nurses for newly added full-time positions, it said.

It added: “Registered nurse staffing will be based on safe staffing ratios that will be included in the collective bargaining agreements and enforced by an independent neutral party.”

The contract also includes across the board wage increases of 3% in each year of the contract and full retrospective pay.

In addition, the contract calls for millions of dollars to be invested for retiree health benefits, tuition reimbursement as well as other monetary benefits.

The agreement “strengthens” worker protections including new guidelines to stop workplace violence, a process to improve safe patient handling, and language allowing nurses to aid victims of disasters inside or outside the US, added the union.

In March, when it served notice for the planned 2 April strike, the association claimed that nurses were being “forced care for up to 19 patients at once”.

It said: “When that happens, our patients suffer. We are patient advocates. We are raising a red flag. We are saying enough is enough.”

The association, which is New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses, represents more than 42,000 members in the state.

California is currently the only state in the US that legally requires minimum ratios of nurses to patients in hospitals.

Meanwhile, voters in Massachusetts rejected introducing similar ratio requirements in a state referendum last autumn.