Perhaps the most important aspect of union membership is the ability to negotiate a contract, which is a written guarantee backed by federal law, involving every aspect of your work life, including pay, insurance benefits, vacation and leave policies, hours of work and much more.
|About the Union :: Know your Contract
Your contract is a legally binding commitment that provides predictability, consistency and equity and takes the place of any arbitrary process management might attempt to implement.
Highlights of the BWH Contract
Over the last three decades, the nurses at the Brigham have used their union power to create one of the nation’s model union contracts for nurses. Here are some highlights of landmark contract language that has been included in your contract:
- BWH was the first union the nation to negotiate an HIV insurance benefit (see page 22 of your contract).
- BWH was also the first to union in the state to negotiate a retiree health insurance benefit (see page 55 of your contract).
- In our last contract, we were the first nurses union in New England to negotiate protection for newly licensed nurses from taking charge duty until they had gained appropriate experience (see page 46 of your contract).
- In 1996, when the hospital sought the right to replace nurses with lesser qualified, unlicensed personnel, something a number of hospitals were doing at the time, your union was the first in the nation to negotiate specific language to prevent this practice and to prevent nurses from being forced to delegate nursing functions to non nurses (see page 52).
- In response to efforts to float nurses to units where they are not competent to practice safely, your union has negotiated strong language to ensure that nurses cannot be floated unless and until they have appropriate competencies, unit-based orientation and unit familiarity prior to being asked to float (see page 52).
- In the event of a layoff, your contract provides a fair and equitable process that recognizes the value of experience and seniority and that provides the union with the opportunity to work with management to find alternative solutions before nurses lose their jobs (see pages 33 - 36).
- To ensure a safe workplace, your contract calls upon the hospital to provide a safe work environment for nurses, as well as guarantees that two representatives from our union will sit on the hospitals safety committee to help address nurses’ safety concerns (see page 53).
- To ensure safer staffing at our hospital, every nurse has the right to document and report staffing concerns to management by filing “Report of Staffing Concerns Forms”, with a requirement that each report of unsafe staffing is responded to in writing by management. In addition, all documented staffing concerns must be reviewed on a monthly basis by the hospital’s care improvement council (see page 54).
- Contract language requires that discipline be for just cause and brings fairness to the discipline process (see page 37).
While the contract is in place, none of its terms, rights or benefits can be altered in any way by management for the life of the agreement.
The Process for Changing the Contract
When the agreement is set to expire, both parties are obligated to begin a process of renegotiating a new “successor” agreement. All members have the right to nominate, vote for and elect members of the union negotiating committee. All members have the right to submit proposals for changes or additions to the contract. Once an agreement is reached, members vote to ratify the agreement.
Use Your Contract to Enforce Your Rights
To ensure that you receive all of the rights and benefits provided by your union contract, it is your responsibility to know and understand your contract. Keep a copy of it handy, refer to it any time you have a question about any aspect of your work life.
Most important of all, do not assume that your supervisor or any member of management has an appropriate understanding or knowledge of your contractual rights. If you are confused about how to interpret any aspect of your contract, seek out a member of your union negotiating committee for guidance, or our staff representative from the MNA. If at any time you feel that your contractual rights are being violated, or that management is not following the contract, speak with a member of your negotiating committee. For further guidance on how to enforce your contractual rights, visit the “Filing a Grievance” link on this web page.