Nurses Prepare for Vote on Final OHSU Contract Offer

11/26/01    Portland, Ore.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 27 - 28, 2001, OHSU nurses will vote on the university's final contract offer to increase their wages and benefits 23 percent over two years, including an increase in wages of more than 11 percent -- a plan that will cost the university $10 million. In contrast, the Oregon Nurses Association's final wage and benefit proposal calls for an average wage and benefit increase of 63 percent, including an average 32.8 percent wage increase over the same two-year period. The ONA proposal would cost OHSU $26.2 million.

"In the current economy, we feel that OHSU's offer is more than fair," said Bonnie Driggers, R.N., M.S., M.P.A., interim associate hospital director for patient care services and one of the OHSU negotiators. "OHSU's contract proposal is more generous than any other existing ONA contract in the community. We recognize that nursing is a challenging profession, and so we offer wages appropriate for this market and benefits that assure our nurses have time off to enjoy their personal lives, plus a pension plan that takes the worry out of retirement." (ONA-negotiated contracts in the community are available from ONA.)

The state conciliator, Wendy Greenwald, has invited OHSU and ONA to an additional mediation session Friday, Nov. 30.

Throughout contract negotiations, a number of allegations have been made. Below is additional information on these negotiation points.

Allegation: OHSU nurses make 12 percent to 19 percent less than nurses at other health centers in Portland.

Fact: OHSU's proposal will give its nurses wages comparable to other Portland-area nurses. Figures showing a gap between OHSU nurses' wages and those of nurses at other health centers are misleading and may be comparing older OHSU contract wages, which were negotiated two years ago in accordance with the contract cycle, with newly negotiated contract wages in the community (apples and oranges).

Unique at OHSU, Oregon's academic health center, nurses are compensated for educational achievement. Misleading comparisons also may cloud this reality, comparing OHSU's starting base salary for its least-educated nurses with metro average wages of all nurses (with educational degrees ranging from A.D.N. to B.S.N. to M.S.N.). The majority of OHSU's nurses have a bachelor's or master's degree. OHSU also provides significant tuition discounts for its nurses to be able to move into the B.S.N. or M.S.N. wage rates.

INSURANCE Allegation: Even though OHSU offers a wage increase of more than 11 percent over two years, nurses would only receive a 4 percent raise because insurance premiums have gone up 7 percent during the past year.

Fact: Nurses have already selected their health insurance plans. Seventy percent of OHSU's nurses selected plans that will enable them to enjoy the full 11 percent raise over two years.

Details on insurance benefits:

  • Under OHSU's offer, nurses will receive a $445 monthly allowance to pay for insurance. This is nearly $100 more a month than the average insurance contribution in other metro-area hospitals.
  • OHSU's proposal offers a 7.2 percent first-year benefit dollar increase. ONA is asking for a 34 percent increase in benefit dollars the first year, and an additional 33 percent the second year.
  • It's important to note that, unlike many businesses, OHSU offers its employees a choice of five health plans. These options include two Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, ODS Health Plan, PacifiCare and Kaiser Permanente.

These choices range in cost from $270 to $748 per month. If employees pick a health plan that costs less than their monthly allotment, or if they opt out of coverage, the majority of the allotment goes to the employee in the form of additional wages.

REPLACEMENT NURSES Allegation: "OHSU has distributed fliers offering weekly salaries of as much as $4,200 for replacement nurses in the advent of a strike."

Fact: OHSU and the agency it has contracted with are puzzled by the fliers, which they did not create or distribute. OHSU has contracted with an agency that will provide trained nurses. While the details of the agency contract remain confidential, wages and other information is misleading.