By AIDAN QUIGLEY
Nurses at the University of Vermont Medical Center have ratified a contract with hospital management with 70 percent of voting nurses in support.
Just shy of 1,100 of the union’s 1,800 nurses voted in the election on Sept. 27.
The hospital and the nurses came to a tentative agreement Sept. 19 after more than six months of tense negotiations which included a two-day strike in July.
Molly Wallner, the nurses’ lead negotiator, said that the nurses were proud of the contract but that they were planning on pushing for “pro-patient and pro-nurse” legislation in the Legislature.
Nurses and hospital leadership will discuss the logistics of increasing the ambulatory nursing pool and reworking staffing grids, two aspects of the contract.
The contract features a 16 percent wage increase over a three-year period for all nurses. Wages had been the major obstacle to the contract, as nurses asked for a 20 percent increase compared with management’s “last, best and final” offer of 15 percent during talks.
The hospital said in a statement that the contract provides meaningful wage increases while allowing the hospital to remain “responsible stewards of limited health care dollars.”
“We are happy to share this long-awaited and positive news, and look forward to implementing the many changes that will result from this new contract – which will enhance patient care, provide additional support for nurses and allow for new opportunities to advance the nursing profession,” the hospital statement said.
Pay increases for ambulatory nurses will be retroactive to the first full pay period in September.
Nurse Daniel Luttrell said nurses in the agreement made significant unexpected gains but that there is still work to do.
“Just because the contract is negotiated doesn’t mean we are done fixing what’s wrong on the inside of the hospital,” he said. “And I’m welcoming any effort from management to try to repair those bonds.”