Senior nurses see meager wage increases, seek recognition for hard work

To the Editor:

I would like to share an excerpt from a letter I wrote to the chief nursing officer of Fletcher Allen Health Care dated April 14, 2003: 

“It’s not enough today for nurses to just feel good about the job they do and to receive all of their appreciation and respect from the patients they care for and their families. Nurses today have a hard time feeling good about the job they do. It’s almost impossible for nurses to feel good when they are understaffed, working in unsafe assignments, without proper orientation, and they’re working extra hours and doing double shifts. Extra money (from overtime) is helpful; an increase in salary is a must! But, being recognized by your manager/employer for doing a good job could make a tremendous difference.

“In most of the working world, if an employee does an outstanding job they get recognized for it, in writing and their bank account. People everywhere need to feel appreciated and valued for the hard work they do. Who better to recognize one’s efforts than the people you work for?”

It appears that there has been no progress in how top executives at UVM Medical Center value their nurses. The name of the hospital has changed. The executives have changed. But how nurses are treated and compensated at the academic medical center has not changed.

When we as nurses at the UVM Medical Center try to explain to people that those of us at the top of our pay scale have not had a pay raise in well over 10 years, I’m not sure people really get it. I looked up my paychecks and wrote down my hourly wages since 2009. They are: 2009 and 2010 – $40.18; 2011 – $41.01; 2012, 2013, 2014 – $41.45; 2015 – $41.85; 2016 – $42.07; 2017 and 2018 – $42.28.

That’s a $2.10 per hour pay increase over nine years!  Yes, we receive 2 percent of our yearly base wage in a “bonus” added to a paycheck at the end of the year, and then taxed. Honestly, this “bonus” is not noticeable, especially when most of our paychecks already include overtime, call and urgent overtime.

After all that has transpired with negotiations the hospital says its 13 percent pay increase proposal is fair. To be clear, for those of us at the top of our pay scale this is a 7 percent pay increase for the three-year contract.

Apparently nurses at the UVM Medical Center are expected to retire making the same salary for the last 20 years of their career. Just think of the impact that continues to have considering 403b retirement accounts and Social Security.

I really want to thank the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals bargaining committee for staying strong and standing up for all of us! I am also very proud of being part of the VFNHP for having a $15 minimum wage for all UVM Medical Center employees as part of our contract.

It takes teamwork to do what we do every minute of every day to care for our patients and families, and every single employee at the UVM Medical Center is part of that team. We may not all feel valued and respected by our employer, but I believe we most certainly value and respect each other.

Dorothea O’Connor Wilkinson is a registered nurse at UVM Medical Center. She lives in Williston.

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