Ascension hospital, nurses disagree over wages

Members of the Michigan Nurses Association are seeking more from Ascension Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, Mich., when it comes to issues at the bargaining table, including wages.     

The union, an affiliate of National Nurses United and the AFL-CIO, represents about 13,000 nurses and healthcare professionals in Michigan, according to a Nov. 12 MNA news release. Ascension Borgess is part of Ascension, a nonprofit system based in St. Louis.

Union members have been in negotiations with hospital management and held a rally Nov. 12 following the expiration of their last contract, WSJM-FM reported Nov. 14.

In a statement shared with Becker's, Ascension said it respects the right of unions to hold such actions.

"As with any event of this kind, the safety and security of our patients, visitors, associates, providers and picketers is our first priority," the health system said.

Ascension also said that during negotiations, it has bargained in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with the union.

"Our ongoing goal is to support all of our associates in a just and equitable manner as we continue to provide safe, compassionate care to those we are privileged to serve," the health system added. "We feel our current offer supports this goal on all levels, including an average RN wage increase of 19 percent in the first year of the contract, and additional raises for the following two years."

The union contends that Ascension has refused to provide cost of living adjustments in the second and third years of the contract.

Moving forward, the MNA said it is urging hospital management "to negotiate a new contract that includes fair wages to recruit and retain nurses and no concessions."

Union members also expressed concerns over what they say is a proposal requiring nurses to work every other weekend and what they say are proposed cuts to retirement benefits. They said Ascension has also proposed eliminating the family or medical leave option for part-time nurses.

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