New Jersey hospital, union reach deal 4 months into strike

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., and United Steelworkers Local 4-200, which represents about 1,700 nurses at the facility, have reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract.

The hospital announced the tentative three-year deal on Dec. 1, about four months after union members began a strike Aug. 4.

"A memorandum of agreement was signed by both parties and will be presented over the next several days to union members through informational meetings as part of the ratification process," Wendy Gottsegen, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital spokesperson, said in a statement shared with Becker's. "We encourage our nurses to attend these meetings and vote at the ratification sessions. The resolution reflects our shared goals of providing the highest-quality patient care and creating a safe and supportive working environment for our nurses."

A statement from the union noted that the proposed contract raises wages, caps insurance costs and provides safe staffing ratios.

"This agreement was hard-fought, but our sacrifice ultimately paid off with a fair contract that addresses nurses' most urgent concerns. The local bargaining committee unequivocally recommends ratification," USW Local 4-200 President Judy Danella, RN, said in the statement. 

Staffing was a key sticking point at the bargaining table. Union members called for minimum staffing levels that they contend are needed for nurses to devote more time to each patient and keep themselves safe on the job. Hospital officials said RWJUH is already among the highest staffed hospitals in the state and that its nurses are the highest paid in New Jersey, based on available public data. 

Meanwhile, the hospital has spent more than $120 million for replacement nurses during the strike. 

"RWJUH has the utmost respect and appreciation for our nurse colleagues and all they do for our patients, the community and this hospital," Ms. Gottsegen said. "We look forward to the outcome of the ratification vote."

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