University of Chicago Medical Center Receives Notice of Strike from Nurses' Union

University of Chicago Medical Center
Receives Notice of Strike from Nurses' Union

Patient Care and Services to Continue Uninterrupted

National Nurses United (NNU) has called a one-day strike for the University of Chicago Medical Center's 1,500 union-represented nurses. By law, NNU is required to give the medical center written notice at least 10 days before a strike. NNU has called for nurses to stop working on April 30, 2015.

Striking nurses will be out of work for five days because the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) has retained skilled replacement nurses and had to commit to five days to ensure a full team of trained replacements. Striking nurses will return to work beginning May 5, 2015.

"We are fully prepared and equipped to continue to serve patients without interruption during the strike," said Debra Albert, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at UCMC. "The safety and care of our patients remain our top priority, as always. We have every confidence in the clinical expertise of the replacement nurses and their ability to work alongside our dedicated nursing leadership, physicians and other staff."

The University of Chicago Medical Center has been bargaining with NNU since August 2014 to reach a contract for its nurses. "It is troubling that NNU would call a strike and take nurses away from their jobs and patients particularly before the NNU and UCMC have finished negotiations," Albert said. "UCMC didn't want a strike, and we have negotiated in good faith for many months."

The key issue is NNU's demand for more money. The average UCMC nurse receives more than $100,000 a year in wages alone. UCMC nurses earn more than virtually all of their peers at other Chicago-area hospitals. Under UCMC's proposal, the majority of nurses have also been offered a 4.5 to 5.5 percent wage increase each year of the proposed new contract. "Our economic proposals maintain a highly competitive salary and compensation program for our nurses, while also being mindful of challenging economic realities facing so many health care organizations today," Albert said.

Although NNU was satisfied with UCMC's staffing commitments under its last contract, NNU has made proposals from its national agenda that call for fixed, inflexible nurse-to-patient ratios.

UCMC maintains that patients cannot be reduced to a number and are best served when nurse staffing is based on an assessment of each patient's needs. In partnership with its nurses, UCMC launched a program last year that does this every day. UCMC's approach to staffing has contributed to its nationally recognized safety and quality track record. UCMC is one of fewer than 250 U.S. hospitals to be recognized with the prestigious Leapfrog Group's highest grade for hospital safety all six times the independent group has released these ratings.

"We believe that a contract is best reached at the bargaining table," Albert said. "UCMC remains committed to reaching a fair contract that's good for nurses, patients and UCMC. We look forward to ending this strike and having all of our nurses back to work as soon as possible."