Nurses union files complaint against Oregon hospital over raises

A nurses union is accusing Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay, Ore., of failing to bargain in good faith by unilaterally implementing wage increases for nurses amid bargaining and after union members had twice rejected contract proposals, according to The Lund Report.

The Oregon Nurses Association, which represents about 300 nurses at the hospital, filed the 29-page complaint May 4 with the state Employment Relations Board.

At issue in the complaint are increases to base wages for nurses along with evening, night, weekend and charge nurse differentials. The increases, effective April 24, included boosting base wages for all classifications in the labor agreement by $5 per hour, according to an April 19 memo about the raises. The hospital also implemented a $2-per-hour raise for weekend and evening shift differentials; increased the night shift differential to $5.50 per hour; and increased the charge nurse premium to $3.50 per hour.

Clay England, the hospital's chief human resources officer, said in a statement shared with Becker's that the hospital made the wage increases to recognize and reward nurses as soon as possible.

"The hospital also made these changes in an effort to attract and hire new nurses to the hospital in order to staff our units. The hospital notified ONA prior to taking this action, requesting their support and clearly stating that this action in no way hampers their ability to negotiate any aspect of the contract, including additional wages," he said.

However, the union complaint said nurses have expressed confusion and anger because of the circumstances surrounding the wage increases.

"While any wage increase is welcome, they questioned the effectiveness of the union, and the purpose of bargaining and voting on a contract if the hospital could unilaterally implement the wage increases," the complaint said.

The union complaint specifically includes allegations of bad faith bargaining and union interference.

"By dealing directly with employees and bypassing the exclusive representative, the hospital has interfered with the existence and administration of the union," the complaint said. "As a result of the hospital's unilateral wage increases, members have questioned the efficacy and need for the union. This has a direct and negative impact on the union."

The complaint also said "the hospital's proffered rationale — the need to retain and recruit nurses — is not credible in light of its dilatory tactics in bargaining."

The April 19 memo about the raises came after the union rejected two earlier offers with similar wage increases — one in March and another in April.

At the time of the memo, Mr. England said the hospital notified the union of its plan to increase wages, "while the parties continued to negotiate with the understanding that these wage increases would not limit the union's ability to negotiate additional wages." 

The union is asking the Oregon Employment Relations Board to require the hospital to pay to the union an amount equivalent to the wage increases implemented during bargaining. The union also wants the board to award a civil penalty of $1,000 and full representation costs on the hospital.

The hospital denies the union's allegations and contends it has bargained in good faith and acted in the best interest of nurses and the hospital.

Both parties have scheduled additional bargaining dates in June, July and August.

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