PATIENT CARE AT TOP-RANKED FACILITY FACING DECLINE, SAY NURSES; RNs READY TO PICKET ON AUGUST 13

Aug. 2, 2011

Contact: Ann Sincox
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August 2, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Nurses Allege University of Michigan Health System Acted Illegally,File Charges with State

PATIENTCARE AT TOP-RANKED FACILITY FACING DECLINE, SAY NURSES; RNs READY TO PICKET ONAUGUST 13

Ann Arbor, MI -  Four-thousand registered nurses at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), represented by the Michigan Nurses Association/National Nurses United, held a press conference today at the University of Michigan to voice serious concerns for their patients and the future of quality patient care at one of the nation's leading medical facilities. Nurses announced they are prepared to picket the hospital on August13 should management refuse to withdraw demands that the nurses say will erode nursing standards at the facility.

The nurses have strong objections to the employer's demands in ongoingcollective bargaining negotiations and its effect on patients coming to UMHSfor care.  Nurses have been working under an expired contract since June30.

The nurses announced that the MNA/NNU filed a complaint today with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission alleging that UMHS unlawfully engaged in regressive bargaining, made unilateral changes in working conditions, bargained directly with employees, and refused an employee's rights to union representation, all violations of the Michigan Public Employment Relations Act.The new charge filed today amends an early complaint charging UMHS with bad faith bargaining and making unilateral changes to working conditions for certain employees.

Proposed cuts in benefits and schedule changes in UMHS's contract proposal will negatively impact quality patient care, the nurses said.  Nurses pointed out that UMHS RNs are seeking what other top university health system facilities provide their nurses-including childcare, health coverage and other benefits critical to working women.  Without comparable contracts,many RNs have indicated they will leave UMHS, which will have a negative impact on patient care.

"UMHS is a world-renowned heath care institution," said Marietta Brooks, RN, a member of the union's bargaining team, "and people come here from allover the world for its specialized care. Health care of this caliber requires experienced nurses with specialized knowledge."

"If the employer is allowed to decrease nurses' benefits and make it more difficult for nurses to schedule and get their work done, it will be harder to recruit and retain those high-caliber nurses both now and in the future, andpatient care will suffer," said Katie Oppenheim, RN, a labor and delivery nurse who is local union chair and a member of the union's bargaining team."UMHS's proposals are a direct hit on women and especially working mothers, which is ironic given the fact that the company is about to open a new women's and children's hospital."

MattSchroeder, President of Ann Arbor Fire Fighters Local 633, shared his fellowfirefighters' support for UMHS nurses. "Ann Arbor's firstresponders count on the experience and immense skill of these nurses. They are angels of mercy. We don't want to see patient care suffer atUMHS because management cannot retain its current nurses or attract new ones to the facility," he said.

UMHS has not claimed it cannot afford the nurses' current level of benefits. UMHS recently reported its 15th consecutive year of operating profits at a 2.1%operating margin in the last fiscal year. Inpatient and outpatient activity increased by approximately 3% over the previous year. The University of Michigan Board of Regents recently approved a $2.1 billion budget for UMHS for fiscal year 2012.

 
The nurses and management return to the bargaining table on August 3.

 
"We will return to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith for a new agreement that is good for patient care and respects nurses' professional practice, experience and dignity," said Oppenheim. "But if management persists in its effort to erode nursing standards, our members are prepared to stage an informational picket on August 13 and, if necessary, take further action thereafter."

 
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The Michigan Nurses Association is the largest, most effective union for RNs in Michigan. As thevoice of all registered nurses in Michigan, MNA advocates for nurses and their patients at the State Capitol, in the community, and at the bargaining table. MNA is a constituentmember of National Nurses United and an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

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