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KVCH Nurses unhappy with delayed negotiations

Rowena Ranan, Staff Reporter - January 30, 2013

Nurses picketed outside of Kittitas Valley Community Hospital a few weeks ago to raise awareness of employment contracts, which have been in negotiation since November 2011.

The nurses at KVCH are all part of the Washington State Nurses Association, a union for nurses.

According to the its website, “WSNA effectively advocates for the improvement of health standards and availability of quality health care for all people, promotes high standards for the nursing profession, and advances the professional and economic development of nurses.”

Amy Diaz, communications and marketing director at KVCH, said it was an informational picketing and did not affect patients.

Picketing is different from a strike because a strike means the employees refuse to work until their demands are met.

“All of the nurses either had the day off or had no duty,” Diaz said. “They weren’t on work time during the picketing,”

There are certain regulations which must be taken into account before the demonstration could ensue.

According to Diaz, before picketing can take place a notification must be sent, therefore the hospital was aware of the picketing before it took place.

According to the WSNA/KVCH local unit web page, there are a few issues in the contract between the KVCH management and its nurses.

One issue is the frozen pay wages over the next three years,wages, which the nurses had expected to steadily rise.

The hospital set the condition that a pay wage increase would only occur if an operating margin above 3.4 percent was achieved.

However, a press release from KVCH states an increase is still available for experienced nurses working more than 20 hours a week.

The second issue is the lack of a required 15-minute break every four hours.

The KVCH web page said that rest breaks are important to the safety of patients and to the nurses who care for them.

These are industry standards which have already been implemented in other hospitals as overseen by the WSNA.

The management at KVCH has been going over the contracts. The hospital hopes WSNA votes and submits a reply by Jan. 31.

While the picketing itself was completely legal, there was a problem with the volume of picketing citizens.

“They were quite noisy and the police came with a noise complaint,” Diaz said.

Despite the lengthy negotiations employment contracts, Diaz said the relationship between hospital workers is good.

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