Nurses seek raises, plan protests; HCA asks union to forgo pay hike to avoid layoffs

Registered nurses at 15 HCA Healthcare hospitals in six states plan to protest this week as part of a dispute over wages, according to the union that represents them.

National Nurses United, which represents more than 150,000 registered nurses in hundreds of U.S. hospitals, said members contend Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA is demanding a unilateral, undetermined number of layoffs, pay freezes and other cuts. The union also contends hospital executives at various HCA facilities are threatening to cut nurses' hours and reassignment of nursing positions, which they say will result in reductions in patient care.

HCA Healthcare told Becker's Hospital Review the union has rejected its plan to continue a pandemic pay program that allows employees who are called off or affected by a facility closure and cannot be redeployed to receive 70 percent of their base pay.

The for-profit hospital operator said it does not have plans for pay cuts and layoffs and hopes to avoid them.

To accomplish that, it is asking the union to give up their demand for wage increases this year, just as nonunion employees have. HCA executive leadership, corporate and division colleagues and hospital executives have also taken pay cuts.  

But nurses take issue with having to make the choice, after HCA received an additional $700 million in funding from the federal government's Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, as well as another $4 billion in Medicare loans, said National Nurses United. The union also noted HCA's profits over the last 10 years.

"After nurses have put their lives on the line to protect HCA patients, it defies belief that HCA, which has widely failed to provide the protection nurses need, wants to further punish them with layoffs and other cuts," Malinda Markowitz, RN, National Nurses United vice president, said in a news release.

HCA pointed to the pandemic pay program it implemented, saying it "is surprising and frankly disappointing that unions would demand pay raises for their members and may reject the continuation of a generous pay program that is providing continued paychecks for more than 100,000 colleagues."

Protests are scheduled for May 28 or May 29 at HCA facilities in California, Missouri, Kansas, Florida, Nevada and Texas. See a full list of the participating facilities here.


More articles on human resources:
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Hospitals and unions: 7 recent conflicts, agreements
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