Source: North Jersey Record
Nurses at Palisades Medical Center have ratified a new three-year contract with Hackensack Meridian Health that provides salary increases for nearly 900 members and the addition of 28 nurses and other health staff at the North Bergen hospital.
The ratification vote came more than six months after negotiations began between hospital management and the nurses and others represented by the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union (HPAE). Nurses have held several informational pickets outside the hospital during that time.
This was the first year that simultaneous labor negotiations involved four member institutions of Hackensack Meridian Health, which formed in 2016 from the merger of two smaller health systems. About 2,500 employees are affected by the outcome.
A separate HPAE bargaining group that represents employees of The Harborage, a nursing home adjacent to Palisades, ratified a contract in September. Two other HPAE locals, representing 1,200 employees at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune and 290 at Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, remain in negotiations.
“It became clear from the first days of bargaining that we were dealing with a large health care corporation whose intentions were to take away health care workers’ rights to speak up for their patients and themselves,” Debbie White, who last month became president of the union, the state’s largest for nurses and other health professionals, said in a statement.
The leader of the Palisades local of the union, Mickey Miquiabas, said: “We fought back against an aggressive anti-union campaign, and now we have a commitment that the hospital will hire more staff and continue to work with us to improve staffing levels and patient safety standards in our hospital.”
Hackensack Meridian had proposed taking away employees’ pension benefits, making changes to their health insurance and taking away the union’s rights to negotiate over new policies, the union said in a statement. But none of those proposals made it into the final agreement.
New hires, to be added over the next six months, are to include 21 registered nurses for medical-surgical units, the emergency department and radiology; three behavioral health technicians, and three certified nursing assistants. A labor-management committee will meet to review staffing conditions and ensure that the positions are filled, the union said.
Wage increases range from 8 percent to 10 percent over the life of the contract, and current benefits were preserved, the union said.