Manistee nurses continue negotiations with Munson Healthcare

Munson Manistee nurses held an informational picket in May to highlight many of the problems that they are negotiating with Munson Healthcare to remedy, and the collective bargaining sessions have continued through this year. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Munson Manistee nurses held an informational picket in May to highlight many of the problems that they are negotiating with Munson Healthcare to remedy, and the collective bargaining sessions have continued through this year. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — The past year has been full of back and forth negotiations between Munson Healthcare and the nurses at Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital.
After a recent collective bargaining session last week, both parties are hoping to come to an agreement by the middle of the month.

“There are still a number of outstanding issues on the table, both economic and noneconomic,” said Kim Wessecker, the Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital director of human resources. “We met last Thursday for a pretty full day, and we discussed a number of different things and spent a considerable amount of time about how nurses are scheduled and what the scheduling process looks like.

“There was a lot of good dialogue back and forth about that, and the hospital will be coming back with a proposal to the nurses, I’m hoping to get that out by this week,” she added.

Kari Zoscsak, president of the nurse’s union at Munson Manistee, said there were several issues on the table that have delayed an agreement.

“There are still a few things that are major but big hold-outs, it’s looking at retirement, the wages and insurance,” she said. “The big thing is our nurses are providing the best care that we possibly can. We want the hospital to succeed.”

According to Munson Healthcare officials, the current nursing contract expired on Dec. 31, 2017. The hospital and the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) have been working on a new collective bargaining agreement, which has included a federal mediator to facilitate negotiations.

The MNA represents 71 registered nurses employed by Manistee Hospital, who are non-management staff in a variety of departments.

According to the MNA, Manistee nurses — like other nurses throughout the Munson Medical Care system — are calling for a fair contract that will ensure safe registered nurse staffing levels for patients. Part of ensuring safe staffing, they say, is ensuring competitive wages and benefits for skilled registered nurses and healthcare workers in the region.

Brendan Straubel, a member of the local bargaining team, said the past proposals would have resulted in an overall pay cut for nurses.

“Everything we’ve proposed has been declined by them, and we’ve accepted a few things from them,” he said. “What they’ve proposed would increase our insurance costs, it would cut our shift differentials, it would cut our retirement, and if you add it all up and figure inflation into that, it would add up to about a 5 percent pay cut.”

Straubel felt that the bargaining team has been treated with disrespect, which has lengthened the process of coming to an agreement.

He added that Munson Healthcare has used temporary nurses to fill gaps due to a local and regional shortage of nurses, and said there have been problems with that solution.
“The problem with temporary nurses is they can be good, or they can be not so good,” he said. “Two temporary nurses were let go within the past few months due to behavioral problems.”

Wessecker said the grievance process for an incident was recently resolved, and the hospital is receptive to the nurses’ concerns.

“There was an incident where we ended a nurse’s assignment, and I’m not sure there was any kind of a safety issue, but we did it because some of the nurses were concerned about it and we wanted to be responsive to their concerns,” she said.

There will be a proposal sent the nurses union this week for their approval, according to Wessecker.

“We’re hopeful that we can send them a revised proposal and that they will schedule a date to vote on the proposal,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll have a ratification and be able to give them the increases that we have proposed and we can get through this round of negotiations and call it closed.”

Zoscsak said it was important to come to an agreement, rather than focus on a deadline.

“We’ve made movements but we can only take so many concessions. We’re hoping to break even, where the hospital basically wants us to lose money on this next contract,” she said. “The hospital has told us they want this contract done by (Dec. 15), but from our perspective it’s not an end date, it’s what is acceptable to both parties.”

Zoscsak expressed gratitude to the community for their support over the past year.

“It has been really enlightening to see the support from the community, and it makes you glad to be in the profession we’re in,” she said. “It has been a morale booster when we haven’t been in the greatest spirits with everything going on this year.”

Leave a Reply