Message from RNU PresidentDecember 20, 2023
2023 is drawing to a close and it’s been a year marked with change and challenge. Though change is often uncomfortable, it can also be positive. I am confident RNU is well positioned to meet the challenges and opportunities of change on behalf of you, our members.
Board of Directors
During the week of December 4-8 we welcomed the incoming Board of Directors that you elected this Fall. During the week the incoming members had opportunities to network and learn from each other, from outgoing board members, and staff. It was a time of orientation to board governance, priorities, and the role they were assuming as Directors.
We also celebrated and recognized outgoing board members at a staff luncheon. I was pleased to present each member with a mini Ovation award recognizing their work and contributions on behalf of the members of RNU.
A new collective agreement that brings stability to the nursing profession
Since the last issue of In Touch, we have negotiated a new contract that has provided every member with gains. Over 80% of you voted in favour of this new contract.
Every member received a signing bonus of $2000. Every member also received an immediate two-step increase in salary with the restructuring of pay grids. Then each step received 2% for each year of the contract. Full-time permanent members also receive an annual bonus incentive for every year of the contract. Long-service members also receive recognition for years of service.
Another significant gain was for nurse practitioners. We were successful in negotiating a separate pay grid that brings NP pay more in line with our Atlantic Canada counterparts. We are presently working with NLHS and Treasury Board to review NP classifications, so our NPs can access the top two levels of their pay grid that we negotiated for them.
These gains are designed to recognize your commitment to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and our public health care system. Thank you for continuing to show up and for doing your utmost for your patients.
Nursing Think Tank
The purpose of the Nursing Think Tank, held in April 2022, was identifying short term measures to address recruitment and retention. The top priorities identified by those of you who attended and submitted feedback via surveys were:
- Providing Incentives to Retain Existing Permanent RNs/NPs
- Improve Access to Leave
- Reduce/Eliminate Mandatory Overtime
Out of this event we achieved unprecedented incentives outside of bargaining such as retention bonuses, signing bonuses for casual RNs to convert to full time, and temporary double overtime rates to fill gaps in schedules. More than a year later we continue to see significant gains come from the Nursing Think Tank. For example, just recently the government announced an investment to provide nurses and other healthcare professionals with increased access to childcare.
You have told us loud and clear that better access to childcare is important for retention and for helping convert casuals who desire permanent employment. We continue to advocate and pressure the government to expand this program so all our members can access childcare wherever they live in our province.
Labrador-Grenfell Health Travel Locum
The LGH travel locum, also an outcome of the Nursing Think Tank, has demonstrated success in helping secure nursing coverage for rural/remote areas. The purpose of this locum pilot project was to reduce reliance on private agency nurses and provide staffing relief for areas in crisis. NLHS RNs are paid a premium wage top-up of $25 per hour to work in selected locum positions in Labrador.
The program has been extended until the end of January 2024 and is currently being evaluated. We are hoping this program will be expanded throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
Privatization of Public Health Services
Over the last year, the government has spent more than $18M on private agency nurses in comparison to just over $4M on RNs and NPs already employed in the public healthcare system.
This redirecting of precious healthcare dollars away from the public healthcare system and into the pockets of private companies is irresponsible and unsustainable.
Relying on private agencies does not make things better. As a matter of fact, it typically results in compromised quality of care as a private company measures its success in cutting costs and corners. A public healthcare system, in contrast, measures its success in the outcomes of its patients.
We are concerned about the recently announced investment in virtual primary care and the privatization of our air ambulances. These represent a further erosion of public healthcare. We are pushing the government to make a better deal and invest taxpayer dollars into improving primary care access and health outcomes for our patients.
To ensure public dollars are spent efficiently and in support of registered nurses loyal to their public employer, RNU calls on the government to implement caps on the number of hours available to private agency nurses and on their salary. Similar measures to limit agency use have just been announced in Nova Scotia.
Retention is still a priority for stabilizing public healthcare. Without this stability, recruitment is simply a revolving door of nurses leaving our profession at a rate faster than we can attract them.
Government has begun consultations on this year’s provincial budget. We are pushing the government to make a real investment in nursing that will stop the bleeding of RNs and NPs from our Public Health care system.
A copy of our budget submission can be found here: RNU Budget 2024 Submission
Committed and Resolute
Your union is strong. We have seen gains this year. But the work isn’t finished. The fight isn’t over.
I invite you to keep standing with us. Make your voices heard. Share your stories with your MHA. Demand government prioritize retention. Thank you for continuing to show up for your patients and each other during one of the most tumultuous times in nursing history in NL.
Yvette Coffey, RN