UW medical nurses reach early contract deal

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UW Medicine nurses at the Montlake and Northwestern campuses reached a tentative contract agreement Sept. 30, even though their contract doesn’t end for nine months.

The Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), the union representing the 2,460 nurses on campus, has reached an agreement providing for a 21% raise for nurses over the next two years, as well as demands for standby pay and training.

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As hospitals in the region recover from a series of other nurse strikes and many hospitals are already facing staff shortages, the quick contract deal is a way to quickly respond to nurses’ demands to prevent them from moving on to other more lucrative positions at another hospital or as a travel nurse.

“We always work side by side with travelers who don’t know the intricacies of our system, and they make more money. But hopefully it will bring a little more stability and we won’t be losing so many people now,” said Janet Bower, a registered operating room nurse.

If approved, these increases would be the largest for UW medical nurses, according to WSNA.

Ed Zercher, a WSNA representative, said the deal would put UW Medicine on a level playing field with other area hospitals.

“Stagnant wages for registered nurses are a thing of the past,” Zercher said. “There is such competition for bright and qualified nurses that institutions need to make themselves more attractive… This is long overdue. The hospital’s opening salary proposal was 10% in new money, but ended up being 21% in total salary increases.

Washington state hospitals are losing a significant amount of money, operating with large deficits, with the highest cost being staff. The Washington Hospital Association reported a collective loss of $1.75 billion statewide. This includes spending more than $1 billion on travel nurses alone, compared to 2021 which was just $305 million.

Voting on the contract is scheduled for Oct. 19, with the results to be announced at 9 p.m.

KIRO Newsradio has reached out to UW Medicine for comment, but has not yet received a response.

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