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Job security featured in nurses' contract.

The results of widespread efforts to moderate or reduce medical care costs were particularly apparent in the Minneapolis--St. Paul, MN, area, where 6,000 registered nurses struck 15 hospitals for 5 weeks to enforce their demands for increased job security in the face of a continuing decline in hospital utilization. Reportedly, only about 30 percent of the nurses were working full time prior to the work stoppage, the largest recorded strike by nurses in the Nation's history.

Much of the drop in utilization rates of hospitals throughout the Nation has resulted from cuts in Federal medicare payments to hospitals, adoption of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO's) and other alternatives to "traditional" insurance plans, and revisions in insurance plans requiring individuals to pay a larger percentage of costs and to seek second medical opinions before certain procedures are undertaken.

One provision of the new contract protects nurses' jobs by providing that cuts in work time be distributed among all nurses in a department on a seniority basis before any jobs can be eliminated. This will be accomplished by reducing biweekly work hours to 32 for the least senior nurse in a department, then applying the same reduction to other nurses in seniority order.

In another move to increase job security, nurses will be permitted to use $250 of the existing $500 a year tuition reimbursement fund for retraining offered by a variety of institutions. The remaining money will be available only for training offered by the previously specified types of institutions.

Another provision specifies that displaced nurses in any other department for which they are qualified will be given a 3-week orientation. Previously, they were given a 2-week orientation.

Other contract terms negotiated by Health Employers, Inc., the hospitals' bargaining organization, and the Minnesota affiliate of the American Nurses Association included 4 percent salary increases in July 9, 1984, and June 1, 1985; a provision for reopening wage negotiations in the third year: 80-cent-an-hour premium pay for weekend work (formerly 65 cents); 72 days maximum accumulation of sick leave (formerly 65 days); and $80-a-month employer payment for dependents health insurance coverage (formerly $65).

One reason the Minneapolis--St. Paul hospitals have been particularly hard hit by reductions in hospital use is because a third of the area's population belong to HMO's, which seek to moderate costs by holding hospital stays to a minimum and having hospitals compete for business.
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Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Sep 1, 1984
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