Message to Staff: Update on INA and SEIU Contract Negotiations
Dear UIC and UI Health Colleagues:
The University of Illinois Chicago continues to negotiate in good faith for updated collective bargaining agreements with both the Illinois Nurses Association (INA), the union that represents more than 1,400 nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital, and SEIU Local 73, which represents 4,000 Clerical, Technical, Service & Maintenance and Professional employees across the campus and in the Hospital.
During the past week the UIC and UI Health teams met for three full days with the INA and with three of the four SEIU bargaining units. With the support of federal mediators, both teams exchanged numerous updated proposals. While we have made progress, we have not yet reached agreement on new contracts. We remain committed to these negotiations, and are prepared to continue extensive good-faith bargaining for as long as it takes to reach fair and fiscally responsible agreements with both unions. We believe much can be resolved through further dialogue and have offered to meet all evening, all weekend, as long as it takes, to resolve the outstanding issues.
However, if agreements are not reached before these dates, the INA has indicated its intent to strike beginning at 7 a.m. on Saturday, September 12 and the SEIU has indicated its intent to strike beginning at 6 a.m. on Monday, September 14.
Should a work stoppage occur, we are prepared to continue ongoing operations at the University and safe patient care at UI Health, as well as the planned implementation of the Hospital’s new electronic health records system, Epic, on Saturday, September 12.
We recognize and support the right of our INA and SEIU colleagues to decide whether to strike or come to work. This is a decision that each employee needs to make for themselves in consultation with their families and loved ones. That said, we believe that a strike by either or both unions is not in the best interest of UIC, UI Health, our patients or students—and the University will do everything we can to prevent one.
You deserve to know the facts before you decide whether a strike during these times is in your best interest, as well as the best interest of the University community at large. As detailed below, when it comes to the top issues that matter to our employees—compensation, staffing, and safety and security—the University has made substantive offers that would lead to meaningful benefits.
- Our nurses deserve top compensation and they receive it. On average, UI Health nurses earn over $20,000 a year more in base hourly compensation than their counterparts. We have offered a continuation of annual anniversary increases, which average 2.44%, as well as up to 2% in incentive increases each year—plus $2,000 bonus for nurses at the top step and an increase to evening and on-call differentials. All this would ensure UI Health nurses remain in the top 10% for pay compared to their peers in Chicago, Illinois and throughout the U.S.
- Similarly, the current UIC and UI Health proposals for SEIU member employees ensure that their compensation remains competitive with peer institutions, complies with all applicable laws and exceeds the City of Chicago minimum wage requirement. While we have reached tentative agreements on almost all non-economic issues with the SEIU bargaining units, only in recent weeks have the parties begun to discuss economic proposals in earnest and these discussions are ongoing.
- Due to the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 global health pandemic and in order to assure the health and safety of our patients, faculty, staff and students, UIC and UI Health have made periodic adjustments to work schedules and work assignments based on CDC and local health department guidance and in compliance with our existing INA and SEIU contracts.
- UI Health’s nurse staffing proposal, “Staffing for Safe Patient Care,” is a patient acuity-based model that focuses on obtaining the right nurse at the right time to care for each patient, so we can achieve the highest level of safety, quality, service and health outcomes. Staffing by acuity recognizes the professionalism of our nurses by taking into account each nurse’s education level, expertise, skills, knowledge, judgement and experiences.
- We do not support the one‐size‐fits-all staffing ratios proposed by the INA, which are too rigid and remove flexibility. They ignore fair workload distribution among peers on a shift‐to‐shift basis. Research has shown that such nurse staffing ratios also result in longer ED wait times, increased ambulance diversion hours, reduced patient services and higher operating costs.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
- From the beginning of the pandemic, we have followed the latest scientific guidelines from local and national public health officials, which have changed dramatically and rapidly over the last few months.
- All INA and SEIU health care providers at UI Health have been provided guidance to use the protective equipment recommended by the CDC and in many cases we have implemented recommendations that go beyond the CDC guidelines. Campus-based SEIU member employees who do not work at the Hospital are provided appropriate PPE based on their job duties, including gloves and face coverings.
- We continue to monitor the guidelines and our supplies to ensure that we are well prepared to care for patients and staff today and in the future. This includes partnering with the INA and the SEIU to request additional support from our elected officials to ensure supply chain availability of needed PPE—in particular, N95 masks.
We greatly value and respect our INA and SEIU colleagues. The contract offers summarized above reflect our respect and commitment to supporting our nurses and SEIU Clerical, Technical, Service & Maintenance and Professional colleagues, while recognizing challenging economic realities laid bare by the COVID pandemic. For more information and updates on the status of SEIU negotiations, please visit SEIUnegotiations.uic.edu. For more information on the status of INA negotiations, please visit uihealthworkforce.uic.edu.
As always, if you have questions about any of our proposals and what they would mean for your position, please feel free to contact UI Health Employee Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or UIC Human Resources at email@example.com.
Michael D. Amiridis
Robert A. Barish, MD
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs
Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services
Michael B. Zenn
Chief Executive Officer, University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics