SHARE has been negotiating with UMass Memorial management for several months now. As you may know, our last negotiations resulted in a contract that was designed to run from 2016 until October 1, 2018. We have agreed with management to extend the duration of the existing contract through October so that all of its provisions and protections continue to apply while we negotiate.
Our last contract agreement laid out ambitious aims for SHARE and UMass Memorial to partner around, particularly with the rollout of Unit Based Teams. We continue to develop those initiatives in the day-to-day, which allows our current negotiations to focus around a tighter scope.
WHAT IS THE GOOD NEWS SO FAR?
While nothing is final until both teams agree around the comprehensive set of issues, management has not proposed changes to benefits that SHARE members care a lot about:
The premium split where UMass Memorial pays 85% of the Health Insurance Premiums for SHARE members. (Although we will expect to see a small increase in the total premium cost charged by the Insurers themselves in January.)
Health Insurance co-pay amounts.
The Defined Benefit Pension plan.
Raises are the toughest issue – see more info below.
A FOCUS ON OVERLAPPING INTERESTS, NOT BARGAINING POSITIONS
As expected, the content of our conversations is meaty and significant, and the tone is respectful. We continue to use a version of Interest-Based Bargaining which builds consensus by discovering and emphasizing those places where our goals and values overlap.
The format of these Negotiations, however, is somewhat different from what we’ve done before. Given the success of the process used to produce our last agreement, the work of negotiating has been routed almost entirely into “Side Tables”: small groups comprising members of hospital leadership and SHARE leadership who have expertise and shared interest to further develop these subjects in our Contract Agreement:
Breaks & Time Off
Leaves of Absence
The Problem-Solving & Discipline Processes
That’s a lot of activity all at once. These groups typically convene once per week to evaluate their progress, further compare interests, and define next steps for developing the agreement.
In the (almost) two years since we reached our last agreement, we have rolled out thirteen Unit-Based Teams. The first five pioneering UBT’s have each had significant successes in the goals that they defined for themselves. SHARE members and management both agree that the effort has been very worthwhile, and all of the UBT’s continue to push on toward more successes.
In Negotiations, we are talking about how to better support the teams with additional resources. The goal is to spread these teams so that every SHARE member in every department has access to participate with their own team. We are discussing how fast we can spread the UBTs at a rate that each team can be successful, and we don’t try to spread too far too fast.
Traditionally, unions bargain about raises at the end. However, a core group of negotiators has been meeting consistently throughout this process to talk about the financial issues. It’s most difficult to apply an Interest-Based approach to issues like money, but rather than debating about who’s getting the biggest slice of the pie, we’re putting our attention on the ways that SHARE members and our union’s efforts expand the size of the pie, and the hospital’s total revenues.
We intend to maintain the wage structure that we’ve developed over the past twenty years, which delivers raises made up of two parts:
An “across-the-board" raise, designed to account for inflation, and move the entire pay grids ahead, and
A raise that recognizes experience by moving members up to the next pay platform each year, so that SHARE members make consistent financial progress.
The discussion with management has been respectful, but difficult. UMass Memorial management is telling us that the hospitals have a lot of financial challenges right now: Medicaid reimbursement cuts and a drop in Medicaid patient volume starting in March this year, very small increases in all reimbursement rates predicted for next year, and their concern about the financial impact on UMass Memorial if the ballot question about RN staffing passes in November.
Of course, the financial stability of UMass Memorial matters to everyone who works here. At the same time, SHARE members are working incredibly hard, often feeling short-staffed, and we need to continue to make financial progress. Raises are important.
As with the amount of the raises, many related issues are the subject of negotiation, and haven’t yet been settled, including the timing of the raises, payment of “retro,” the length of the contract, etc.
MORE INFORMATION & NEXT STEPS: We may need your help...
If you’ve been in SHARE over several contract negotiations, you know that it’s often important for management to see that SHARE members are paying attention to contract negotiations and care a lot about the outcome. We usually find a fun, but pointed, way for SHARE members to voice their concerns, and we may need to do that again soon.
Thank you to all the SHARE members who have come to the Contract Information Sessions. These conversations help your Negotiating Team hone our priorities as we continue contract discussions. We will soon announce another wave of system-wide Information Sessions.
Our negotiations are steadily progressing. Keep your eye on this blog for more updates, and we encourage you to reach out to your area SHARE Rep or Organizer to discuss any of the details in greater depth. Or, just call the SHARE office, of course (508-929-4020). More to come . . .