Michigan Nurses Association sues UM over workload expectations

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The Michigan Nurses Association at the University of Michigan filed a lawsuit against the university on Tuesday over the workload its members are facing.

The MNA alleges UM is breaking the law by refusing to bargain over nurses’ workloads in its contract negotiations with the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council.

“When nurses are forced to take care of too many people at once, patient care gets compromised and nurses are put in danger of injury or burnout, and that’s happening far too often at our hospital,” Renee Curtis, president of MNA-UMPNC, said in the release. “Our union is fighting for patient safety, first and foremost. It’s absurd to think that conversations about how to keep patients safe can be effective without talking about our nurses’ workloads.”

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The expiration of the former MNA-UMPNC contract on June 31 left 6,200 nurses without a contract, according to a press release. MNA-UMPNC members have held marches to protest working conditions and rallies for a fair contract since July 1.

MNA also filed an unfair labor practice charge on Monday with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, which asks for an injunction forcing the university to bargain over workload ratios immediately, pending MERC’s ruling. The lawsuit was filed in the Michigan Court of Claims. MNA also contends that the university is violating the Public Employment Relations Act, which designates workload and safety as mandatory subjects of bargaining.

The University of Michigan Board of Regents holds the contract with MNA-UMPNC.

“The University of Michigan Health plans to vigorously defend itself in the lawsuit filed by the U-M Professional Nurses Council,” Michigan Medicine spokesperson Mary Masson said in an email to Crain’s.

Masson said UM’s current offer to MNA-UMPNC includes safely eliminating mandatory overtime, providing a 6 percent raise for nurses in the first year and 5 percent per year for the next three years — representing a 21 percent base pay increase — and introducing a new salary step program for nurse practitioners with an average 20 percent increase over four years.

“We continue to bargain in good faith,” Masson said. “Although the labor agreement has officially expired, University of Michigan Health’s nurses continue to work under the same terms and conditions of the expired contract and be paid at the same rate as before the expiration.”

This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain’s Detroit Business.

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