KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Ascension Borgess Hospital and a local nurses union are at an impasse over a new contract for registered nurses, prompting members and their supporters to rally.
The local chapter of the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) said some of the takeaways in Ascension Borgess’s latest proposal include requiring nurses to work every other weekend, cuts to retirement benefits and eliminating the right to family or medical leave for part-time nurses.
“That would hurt some of our part-time staff, which are the people that step up a lot when we are short-staffed,” said Dana Dekoekkoek, a union member and part-time nurse at Ascension Borgess. “So, that really kind of is rubbing us the wrong way.”
When not working part-time at Ascension Borgess, Dekoekkoek takes care of her disabled father at home. She says she is scared she won’t be able to if an emergency strikes and her family leave is gone.
“I don’t use it all that much, but it is concerning if they take that away from me. Because then it can lead to steps and, eventually, dismissal if all I’m doing is taking care of my dad,” Dekoekkoek said.
The Saturday morning rally by MNA members and supporters came a day after their contract with Ascension Borgess expired. Local association president Lori Batzloff says the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement after two months of negotiations.
“Nurses are done giving concessions. It’s time for Ascension to give back,” Batzloff said.
An Ascension Borgess spokesman said they are bargaining in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
“Our ongoing goal is to support all of our associates in a just and equitable manner as we continue to provide safe, compassionate care to those we are privileged to serve,” the spokesman added. “We feel our current offer supports this goal on all levels, including an average RN wage increase of 19% in the first year of the contract and additional raises for the following two years.”
But Batzloff said the most recent proposal did not include a cost-of-living adjustment and that the demands are not limited to the pay. She added the most urgent matter is staffing, with the hospital down to 400 nurses from 600 since the pandemic.
The union is demanding a nurse-to-patient ratio cap, which limits how many each caretaker can look after at one time.
“The nurses need to have the time to provide direct bedside care to their patients,” said Batzloff. “When they are constantly running and skipping their breaks and they worry that they miss something, that creates a moral injury to our nurses, and it drives nurses away from the bedside.”
According to Batzloff, Ascension Borgess and the MNA have yet to head back to the bargaining table since they last met two days before the contract’s expiration.