Ohio nurses ratify contract after tough negotiations

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Registered nurses at Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, Ohio, have approved a new collective bargaining agreement that preserves their right to speak out on behalf of patients and professional standards.

The one-year contract, which covers about 390 nurses, includes minimum across-the-board pay increases of 2.5 percent. Nurses whose pay has been frozen on the salary grid for seven years will receive catch-up increases, which in some cases could amount to as much as 9 percent.

The hospital and the Ohio Nurses Association reached a tentative agreement Jan. 23 after 18 months of bargaining. Nurses ratified the pact Jan. 29.

The contract also includes protections against arbitrary down-staffing by ensuring that nurse staffing can't fall below state nursing standards.

"This agreement maintains important nurse staffing protections and moves our nurses forward with wage increases and healthcare benefits," says Eric Williams, president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association.

The contract provides the foundation for continued discussion of staffing and other issues. The union agreed to work with hospital management to identify efficiencies, while preserving Northside's tradition of award-winning patient care.

The nurses received widespread community support during negotiations, including from local and state elected officials, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), clergy and organized labor.

[Scott Stephens]