UM nurses reach tentative contract agreement

Hannah Mackay
The Detroit News

A union representing 6,200 nurses at the University of Michigan has reached a new contract agreement with the university, the group announced late Wednesday.

“Through our months of solidarity and collective action, nurses have stood strong to reach an agreement that meets our members’ priorities of protecting patients and investing in nurses so we can provide the best care possible,” said Renee Curtis, a registered nurse and the union's president.

The new contract includes improved mechanisms for balancing workloads, competitive wages and a provision to end mandatory overtime, according to the release. The proposed contract has to be reviewed and voted on by union membership and will become final if it is ratified.

University of Michigan nurses chant on the grounds of the University of Michigan Hospital as they held an informational picket.

"Our elected nurse negotiating team is unanimous in believing that this agreement is a win for everyone who cares about nurses and the quality of care at the University of Michigan," Curtis said.

In a statement Thursday, UM officials said: "University of Michigan Health leaders are pleased to announce a tentative agreement has been reached with ... a valued and crucial partner in the safe and high-quality care we provide. The tremendous work put into this agreement will result in continued support of our patients and ensures that they have uninterrupted access to the state-of-the-art and highest-quality health care available at University of Michigan Health."

The Michigan Nurses Association and its University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council represent about 6,200 nurses who have been working without a contract since their previous one expired June 30. Negotiations began on March 15. Issues over wages, workloads and nurse recruitment and retention were sticking points throughout the process.

The new contract comes after the nurses' union filed a lawsuit against the university in August, alleging it was refusing to bargain over nurses' workloads. The union claimed the hospital system's nurse-to-patient ratios were inadequate, leading to a lower quality of patient care and burnout. The university denied these claims and said that UM Health staffing decisions have produced "outstanding safety results."

The tentative contract agreement was reached nearly three weeks after the union voted to give its bargaining team authorization to call a strike, alleging unfair labor practices.

No strike was called in Ann Arbor although about 15,000 nurses in Minnesota walked out of work last week, making it the largest private-sector nursing strike in U.S. history. The Minnesota nurses returned to work after a three day strike but still do not have a contract.

Email: hmackay@detroitnews.com

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