ANN ARBOR, MI – Members of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council are hoping to have a new contract with Michigan Medicine before its contract deadline on Saturday, June 30, but say they won’t be pressured into finalizing an agreement that still needs a lot of work.
UMPNC/Michigan Nurses Association Chair Katie Oppenheim said union representatives have been working hard since January to reach an agreement for its 6,000 council members with Michigan Medicine, but key issues like retirement cutbacks, increased health care costs and guaranteed staffing levels remain unresolved.
“It’s really clear the administration is much more focused on financial gain than the health system,” Oppenheim said. “They have refused to guarantee to maintain the current staffing levels that we have. We have good staffing levels in our institution, for the most part, in all areas. We’re simply asking to have those staffing levels guaranteed.”
Michigan Medicine Spokesperson Mary Masson said the UMPNC has acknowledged current staffing levels within the health system are “excellent and the best in the state.”
“Our nurses’ scores from a recent internal survey reflect that they rate our staffing positively relative to their ability to care for our patient and family needs,” Masson said.
The MNA has scheduled an informational picket for July 14, but hopes to have an agreement prior to the current five-year contract’s expiration. The two sides are expected to continue negotiations up to a midnight deadline on Saturday, but Oppenheim said she was disappointed another bargaining session wasn’t scheduled until July 9 if a contract isn’t reach at that point.
Oppenheim said she believes Michigan Medicine’s focus continues to be on growing across the state and “piling up a surplus on the backs of nurses,” referencing the $103 million surplus Michigan Medicine reported from nearly $4.3 billion in revenue for 2018 at last week’s UM Board of Regents meeting.
Oppenheim said the two sides continue to be apart on Michigan Medicine’s calls for increased cost for healthcare co-pays and prescription drugs, as well as on a guaranteed contribution retirement plan.
“We have a retirement plan, which pretty much everyone in Ann Arbor knows, is a guaranteed contribution plan and nurses come to this institution because they can build and plan toward a retirement in a way they’re unable to in other places that this is not guaranteed,” she said. “This is not something we have any interest in, whatsoever. We believe that the retirement as it exists now, is one of the key issues for our members, in addition to the healthcare co-premiums.”
Masson said nurses within the health system are compensated in a highly competitive fashion, with many paid at the 75th percentile as measured among peer institutions. Retirement plans currently include a 2 to 1 match in retirement savings, she noted. Regarding health care benefits she said:
“We’ve proposed nominal increases to health care co-pays that bring the nurses into alignment with the rest of Michigan Medicine.”