After months of negotiations, the University of Michigan Health System and the Michigan Nurses Association reached a tentative contract agreement on Friday. The MNA will meet at a date to be determined to hold a ratification vote.
Katie Oppenheim, chair of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, said specific details about the deal can’t be released yet, but more details will be provided soon.
“We are unanimously recommending ratification of this agreement,” Oppenheim said. “That is all that we can say at this point. Once we have the first ratification meeting, we will post (the agreement) on our website.”
A UMHS spokesman declined to comment on the new contract.
UMHS and the MNA have been in negotiations since April and the nurses have been working without a contract since July. The main controversy in the discussions was centered on the nurses’ compensation and benefits.
The nurses claimed that UMHS wanted to cut back benefits by limiting overtime pay, reducing paid vacation time and requiring union members to contribute more to their health insurance.
In a speech in front of the University’s Board of Regents at its monthly meeting last month, Keri Bokor, a nurse who works in the UMHS Surgical Intensive Care Unit, said the benefit reductions essentially amounted to a pay cut for the nurses.
“If you take away all of those things, including making us pay for more insurance, we’re pretty much taking a pay cut,” Bokor said in a Sept. 15 Michigan Daily article. “We have nurses that come from Davison, Flint, Lansing, Toledo — we service the entire region. Those nurses aren’t going to want to work here if they don’t have those kinds of benefits.”
In June, the MNA filed a grievance with the state against the hospital, claiming it violated state law and collective bargaining rights when it unilaterally changed the work schedules of a handful of nurses.
Additionally, the MNA organized a march through Ann Arbor earlier this month as a means to rally support for its cause. Hundreds of nurses and supporters marched from Liberty Plaza on East Liberty Street to the University Hospital, where they picketed in front of the building.
Tom Mallon, a UMHS nurse since 2004 who participated in the march, said he supported the union because he didn’t like how the hospital was treating the MNA.
“I’ve historically never been a pro-union guy, but when I see the University giving their administrators and giving their executives substantial pay increases and then asking me — as a staff nurse — to work more hours but reduce my access to overtime and increase my health care cost, it’s a slap in the face,” Mallon said,in an Oct. 12 Michigan Daily article.
The Michigan Student Assembly also passed a resolution last month voicing its support of the MNA in its negotiations.
– Daily News Editor Joseph Lichterman contributed to this report.