Important: Recruitment/Retention Stipend for Critical Care Nurses

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On Feb. 15, we finalized an MoA with UConn Health on a recruitment and retention stipend for nurses in critically understaffed areas. This may seem counter to some principles of collective bargaining. Therefore, knowing how we got here is helpful to understanding it.

  • HR approached us at the end of last year about offering sign-on bonuses for the OR and ICU. They said they were not getting applicants for vacancies there.

  • We reject the concept of sign-on bonuses, as they reward new hires instead of our members who already are working in these areas, many of whom are emergency staffed repeatedly to cover the holes in the schedule.

  • Additionally, we know that sign-on bonuses do little for retention, both of current employees and new hires.

  • We also showed HR that nursing vacancies, ESV, emergent staffing and forced overtime are problems in more than the OR and ICU.

What started as a sign-on bonus for new hires in two areas became a recruitment and retention stipend for new hires and current employees, not only in the OR and ICU, but also the intermediate unit, the ED, and the critical care float pool.

We agreed to this--after much deliberation--for several reasons:

  • To acknowledge the work of our members who toil daily in these critically understaffed areas.

  • To be part of the solution in the overall effort to improve staffing levels and ultimately, patient care, which is--or should be--a common goal.

  • HR was going to do this with or without us. The choice was between an incentive for a relative few who aren’t even our members yet, and an incentive for all of our members who work in these high-demand areas. Given these two choices, it would be a disservice to the professionals we represent if let them go empty handed because we quietly watched a sign-on bonus go through for new hires only.

This agreement has an end date of June 20, 2019, coinciding with our next scheduled raises. HR believes at that time our salaries will be more in line with area hospitals. That remains to be seen.

Remember, this is caused by an inability to fill vacant positions. Any of our nurses who transfer in to these critical care areas also would be eligible for this stipend.

Update: The MoA was revised on March 6 to include nurses in the UConn Surgery Center and nurses from other units who float into the areas identified.

And let’s not forget, this idea started with management.

Through deliberate negotiation we were able to take a very bad situation and make it not quite as bad. Not ideal, but certainly the lesser of two evils.

Please consider this when deciding where to channel your anger. Have you filled out your Nursing Satisfaction Survey? Let them know what you think.

The more management is aware of your discontent—and the less divided we are as a union—the better we can harness the power of collective bargaining as we work to be part of future solutions... for the benefit of not only our members, but also our patients.

Finally, we understand and appreciate the passion this invokes. To those with strong feelings about this, we appeal to you to harness that passion and direct it toward the big-picture concerns over the future of our right to collectively bargain. The Janus case now before the U.S. Supreme Court threatens to deal a major blow to the labor movement. Our best hope of maintaining our collective power and remaining a strong voice for working people is to understand the importance of our unions and help our fellow members realize their value--that collective bargaining is worth fighting for, and yes, paying for.