UW Medicine nurses reach early contract agreement

UW Medicine nurses at the Montlake and Northwest campuses reached a tentative contract agreement Sept. 30, even though their contract does not end for another nine months.

The Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), the union representing the 2,460 nurses on the campuses, reached an agreement that includes a 21% raise for nurses over the next two years, alongside demands for standby and training pay.

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As hospitals in the region recover from a series of other nursing strikes, and with many hospitals already facing understaffing, the speedy contract agreement is a way to quickly meet nurses’ demands to prevent them from moving to other more lucrative positions at another hospital or as a travel nurse.

“We still are working side by side with travelers who don’t know the intricacies of our system, and they make more money. But I’m hoping this will bring a little more stability, and we don’t lose as many people now,” Janet Bower said, an operating room registered nurse.

If approved, these would be the biggest raises for UW Medicine nurses, according to WSNA.

Ed Zercher, a representative from WSNA, says this agreement would put UW medicine on par with other hospitals in the area.

“Stagnation in registered nurse wages is something of the past,” said Zercher. “There’s such a competition for bright skilled nurses that facilities are having to make themselves more attractive … This is long overdue. The hospital’s opening wage proposal was 10% in new money but ended up being at 21% in total wage increases.”

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

The contract vote is set for Oct. 19 with results to be announced at 9 p.m.

KIRO Newsradio has reached out to UW Medicine for comment but hasn’t heard back yet.

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