Registered nurses at Millinocket Regional Hospital have voted to ratify a new union contract
Millinocket Regional Hospital nurses have a new three-year contract that they say will raise wages to attract and retain nurses and increase workplace security. The 29 nurses at the hospital have been part of the Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee for 40 years.
Dyana Gallant is a registered nurse and bargaining team member. She said the 10 to 11 percent wage increase over three years will help the hospital compete for talent that is in short supply.
"With those percentage increases, we are now competitive with surrounding hospitals of similar size," Gallant said. "So in order to attract nurses and retain the ones we have we have to be competitive with the other hospitals."
Gallant said the new union contract also requires management to hire security to protect staff at night, when there have been incidents of violence against nurses.
"I think the fact that we had to bargain over added security to prevent workplace violence is unfortunate. That should have been done long ago," she said. "That is the job of my employer, to protect us so we can provide safe care to our patients."
The new union contract also requires management to report on a quarterly basis to the union any instances of workplace violence.
Gallant said she believes a federal law to protect healthcare workers is needed. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act has passed the House but not cleared the Senate. It would require OSHA to create a federal standard for workplace violence prevention that healthcare employers would have to meet.
A state legislative task force has also been studying violence against healthcare workers here in Maine and will soon report its recommendations on solutions to the full legislature.