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Nurses at KU Hospital Reject Contract Offer

         Citing salaries that lag area norm while hospital revenues soar,
nurses vote to reject University of Kansas Hospital contract offer

KU Hospital’s demands “unworthy of a magnet hospital of this prestige” says nurse leader

Nov. 7, 2013, KANSAS CITY – Nurses at the University of Kansas Hospital voted decisively today to reject the hospital’s final contract offer, citing management demands that would result in significant cuts in most nurses’ salaries.

The rejected offer also included cuts to nurses’ paid time off and reductions in pay for working nights and weekends. Nurse union leaders said management’s proposed cuts come at a time when the hospital’s patient revenue has grown by leaps and bounds, and its financial outlook is strong.
“As most who are familiar with the hospital’s position in the metro area know, we’re not looking at a hospital that is being forced to cut corners,” said Emily Harvey, President of the Kansas University Nurses Association (KUNA), the union that represents approximately 1,400 RNs and LPNs at the hospital, and who have been bargaining with the hospital since July. “Our members are looking at KU Hospital that is doing better than ever financially, yet question why administration wants to nickel and dime nurses. That’s not the way to attract and keep great nurses. It’s an unworthy stance from a Magnet-designated hospital of this prestige.”

KU Hospital was first awarded the coveted magnet status in 2005 by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The designation, which was renewed in 2011, is an indicator that a hospital promotes excellence in nursing and health care.

“Magnet status is a gold standard for topnotch nursing care,” said Harvey. “Members have questioned our negotiating team about how the KU Hospital Authority can bring down its nurses’ salaries and pay substandard wages for this area, while claiming to be an example for other hospitals.   Our patients want and need the best nurses. There is considerable concern among our members that the Hospital Authority’s treatment of its topflight nursing staff as reflected in this contract offer will drive excellent nurses away.”

Harvey said that KUNA’s research shows that the University of Kansas Hospital has been thriving financially, but its nurses’ salaries are lagging behind the standard for this area. She also noted that Standard and Poor’s raised the hospital’s bond rating in 2011, due in part to its strong market presence and sound operating results, and in 2012 affirmed the hospital’s bond rating, citing its continued strong financial performance. Yet, while demand for healthcare professionals is growing in Kansas City, average salaries for nurses at KU Hospital are below the mean for the metro area according to an analysis by KUNA comparing the hospital’s pay levels with area wage data.  A 2013 Compdata survey revealed that between 2010 and 2012 total patient revenue has increased 42.4 percent, and total assets have increased 41.4 percent.

Cheryl Shoemaker, a long time KU Hospital nurse and KUNA member, said that nurses would be weighing their options going forward. “One thing is sure. We are motivated as never before to fight for quality jobs for nurses at this hospital. We deserve that—but more importantly, our patients deserve that.”