Contract Negotiations 2016, Session 4: Staffing & Leaves of Absence


SHARE and UMass Memorial had their fourth contract negotiations session on Wednesday, August 24. This week, we focused on:

  • Staffing. This is an issue that SHARE brought to the table. Front-line employees on our negotiating team explained the trend toward working with fewer hands in each department, and the frustrations and hazards of working with a thin crew. We discussed with management a range of possibilities for addressing that problem, as described in more detail below.
  • Leaves of Absence (LOAs). This is an issue that management brought to the table. Managers described how many SHARE members take LOAs, and how difficult it is to staff a department when people are out. Of particular interest to management is that our hospital provides job protections beyond those mandated by the law, including protections for SHARE members who work less than 1250 hours each year. SHARE expressed a number of interests, including that we have always believed that part-time members--many of whom have family obligations or can't get full-time work in the hospital--should have full access to medical leaves and other benefits.

Read on for more detail . . .


If you’re reading this, you probably already know the answer. You’re working on the front lines yourself, and you know what your co-workers are saying. We presented to management facts from the most recent anonymous SHARE surveys, including:

  • 41% of SHARE members disagree that staffing levels are adequate in their departments. That's 660 SHARE members.
  • In all, SHARE members wrote nearly 500 comments in the survey expressing concern about their workload or staffing levels in their department. The SHARE Negotiating Team read aloud a couple dozen of these comments so that the management negotiating team could hear what SHARE members have to say. (We made sure all comments were anonymous, leaving out department details.)

Of course, SHARE recognizes that more staff cost money. We want our hospitals to be financially stable, and we don't want to go back to the days of substantial layoffs nearly every year. We also know that sometimes the problem isn't just the number of staff -- if you spend a bunch of your shift looking for linen, that's a system problem that needs to be fixed.

That said, many SHARE members who have been here for any length of time are now operating in departments that have seen significant decreases in staffing levels, and are now feeling the effects as the resulting stresses build up. Many people leave their shifts exhausted, and worried about what they might have missed because they were running so fast all day. 

SHARE members don't know how the decisions are made about how many staff a department has, and we aren't part of those decisions. When decisions are made without us, they're made without all the information, which isn't good for us or the hospital.


The management side listed the kinds of LOAs that a SHARE member might potentially take. They say that intermittent leaves create particular problems for department staffing, particularly when those leaves are taken unexpectedly. SHARE has made a number of data requests to better understand how often these leaves are being taken, and how changing any policies would actually affect staffing. The kinds of LOAs break down into two broad categories:

Members of the management team highlighted they’re focused on the systematic problems that result from these leaves. They recognize their legal obligations to protect jobs. They said that this discussion isn’t about calling into question the legitimacy of leave requests, but about addressing the staffing issues that result from leaves of absence.

SHARE pointed out that the issues of LOAs and staffing are linked. When departments are staffing with just enough staff, it's tough to run the department when people are out sick.

We’ll continue working on these issues through joint working groups, and be back at the table for negotiations next week. Stay tuned for more . . .