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Nurses not satisfied with offer

Capping two pickets in less than a month from an ongoing labor dispute, registered nurses rejected a contract offer from Washoe Medical Center by 97 percent, the Operating Engineers Local Union reported Wednesday.

The Reno hospital, which has tried to iron out a contract since December 1999, receives on the average 18 patients a month from Barton Memorial Hospital based in South Lake Tahoe.

The latest outreach fails to go far enough in compensation, benefits, patient care and respect, union representative Carin Franklin said.



“We need to contact the hospital to go back to the negotiating table,” she said.

But Washoe Medical Center officials called its latest offer its final one, labeling it “very fair and competitive within our market.”



The hospital offered a $1.56-an-hour increase for each nurse when the contract becomes effective and a 4 percent merit increase on the nurse’s anniversary date.

The union’s tiered wage proposal amounted to $20-an-hour for nurses who have worked less than a year. For nurses with five-plus years of tenure, the union recommended a $25-an-hour wage.

The union contends that it’s unfair to compensate those nurses who are just starting at the same level as those who have worked for the hospital for years.

The starting salary for U.S. nursing graduates in 1998 was $31,802 – 3.4 percent lower than the previous year.

The actual average annual earnings of RNs employed full-time in 2000 was $46,782. In comparison, Barton’s average salary is $48,000. Franklin estimated the average salary for Washoe nurses at $41,600, which ranges from $18 to $25 an hour.

The hospital also offered additional sick days and the optional payout of unused sick leave, but the benefits are few and far between in terms of what the union nurses were seeking, Franklin insisted.

According to the union, nurses requested no change in their health insurance premiums. Franklin said the hospital denied the lock-in rates, but the hospital did agree to inform staffers of a raise in premiums. Hospital administration was unavailable to confirm this negotiating point.

Another point of contention unconfirmed by the hospital revolved around the absence of premium pay for Washoe’s floating policy.

Many nurses object to floating, which requires working in other departments on an as-needed basis, because the disciplines are often so different.

The labor dispute coincides with a nursing shortage in Nevada, a state ranked as having the worst nurse-to-patient ratio in the nation.


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