The University of Michigan Health System and the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council reached a contract agreement yesterday after more than seven months of bargaining over nurses’ compensation and benefits.

Members of the Professional Nurse Council and the Michigan Nurses Association voted to approve the new three-year agreement last night, which applies to more than 4,000 nurses at the University.

The agreement succeeds the University’s former contract with the Professional Nurse Council that expired on June 30 and includes a revised wage program and modifications to retirement eligibility and health insurance premiums, among other changes, according to a Nov. 6 UMHS press release issued yesterday. Prior to the agreement, the nurses were concerned that UMHS wanted to cut benefits including reducing paid vacation allotment, limiting overtime pay and establishing requirements stating they must contribute increased funds for health insurance.

The contract will also provide nurses a “significant voice” on issues such as staffing and nursing practice, according to a separate press release from the Michigan Nurses Association also issued yesterday.

In April, the University and nurses engaged in disputes following anticipated changes to six nurses’ schedules. The changes violated the Michigan Public Employees Relations Act and the collective bargaining agreement between the University and the nurses’ union.

Since then, University officials and nurses have assembled more than 50 times to discuss negotiations to the contract, according to the UMHS press release.

Amid ongoing negotiations, Ora Pescovitz, the University’s executive vice president for medical affairs, praised the work of University nurses and supported a resolution to the bargaining negotiations in her State of the Health System address on Sept. 28.

“Our nurses are really on the front line of seeing our patients,” she said in her speech. “Our nurses are critical to creating the ideal patient care experience.”

Last month marked a milestone for both parties when UMHS and the Professional Nurse Council reached their first tentative agreement — which came just over a week after hundreds of nurses and supporters rallied in downtown Ann Arbor for a finalized contract.

UMHS nurse Katie Oppenheim, chair of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, said at the time that the nurses were “unanimously recommending” the ratification of the tentative agreement.

In the Michigan Nurses Association press release, Oppenheim called the finalized agreement a “win” for all parties.

“Our nurses came together to stand up for what they believed,” she wrote. “It was the strength and unity of our union that has allowed us to push forward to such a successful settlement.”

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