Boston’s 39 VNA Health Care Professionals (HCPs), represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, voted overwhelmingly on June 22 to allow a possible limited-time strike as they seek their first UAM contract. The owner of the company VNA Care, which has offices in Worcester, Needham and Danvers, refuses to agree to key arrangements regarding conditions of patient care, health insurance and retirement security.
Eighty percent of medical professionals – physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers and speech language pathologists – voted on June 22 and voted 100 percent to allow their MNA bargaining committee to call a strike if necessary. The duration and timing of the strike have yet to be determined by the HCPs elected by their colleagues to represent them on the committee. Healthcare professionals voted to allow the potential strike after months of negotiations and VNA Care creating significant obstacles to a contractual deal:
VNA Care refuses to safely limit the patient care missions entrusted to healthcare professionals on a daily basis. Excessive workloads make it extremely difficult for healthcare professionals to provide the level of care patients deserve, especially patients who require complex treatment after hospitalization or surgery. Instead, VNA Care wants unlimited ability to assign cases to healthcare professionals regardless of the complexity of patient care requirements.
VNA Care wants the right to increase health insurance costs or unilaterally reduce coverage. Healthcare professionals seek the same health insurance deal as VNA Care with its registered nurses so that healthcare professionals can count on accessible and affordable coverage for themselves and their families.
VNA Care does not want to guarantee any pension contributions for HCPs. The HCPs offered to receive the same 401K correspondence as other network employees.
VNA Care is proposing to reduce sick leave for new healthcare professionals from 13 days per year to six, a change that would only force clinicians to work during their illness and threaten patient safety. The agency also proposes to reduce the days of mourning.
VNA Care refuses to accept a salary scale that properly values the care provided by medical professionals and their increasing level of experience as they continue to work for the agency. Pay scales are a standard in union contracts that provide for fair and transparent pay increases and facilitate recruitment and retention.
“We are dedicated to this process and to securing a fair and equitable contract,” said Rod Hemingway, MP Co-Chair and Occupational Therapist. “They didn’t respect us and decided they just didn’t want to give us the predictability we need. A contract will give our members stability in our wages and benefits, so that we can plan our lives and care for our children or family members. People want to root deeply in VNA. We want to take care of our patients and make the agency the best it can be. When new employees arrive, we want them to stay and grow into experienced and trusted healthcare professionals. There is no reason why we should not be the agency of choice.
“It’s frustrating that they are deliberately delaying our contract. They come to the table to show, not to make progress, and are not even willing to give us equity with the nurses, ”said Nikki Ducey, physiotherapist and ANM co-chair. “Nurses agree that the workload is the same and should be counted the same. We all work together to treat patients and to have our own employer value us differently, and really less than, it’s awful. We are looking for predictability and reliability. They want total discretion. I have been here for almost 10 years and they took so much from me. They won the retirement game and I haven’t had a raise for five years. Not knowing what these benefits will look like from year to year is very disheartening. ”
“We are committed to our patients, to our union and to this bargaining process,” said Debra Nowak, MP’s Co-Chair and Physiotherapist. “We stand together as we take all necessary steps to protect our patients and secure a contract that adequately supports and empowers our clinicians. ”
Background to BVNA’s HCPs and negotiations
Healthcare professionals voted to join the MNA in a National Labor Relations Board election in late 2019. The MNA also represents registered nurses working for the Boston VNA, who have a separate contract.
Founded in 1886, the Boston VNA is the oldest organized VNA in the country. Boston VNA and its healthcare professionals provide essential home care and recovery services to thousands of patients across a vast area of Massachusetts which includes Boston, Brookline, South Boston, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Roxbury, Brighton , the North End, Chinatown, Quincy, Everett, Winthrop, Milton, Revere, and more.
The medical needs of these patients are varied and complex and may include, among others, post-surgical conditions such as total hip or knee replacements; stroke; Parkinson’s disease; Multiple sclerosis; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); cardiopulmonary diseases; amputations; and post-traumatic care (ruptures, fractures).
In recent years, many hospital services for patients have shifted to home care, making ANVs and PCHs a vital and ever-expanding part of the U.S. healthcare system. Hospitals are now getting patients home faster than ever before because it cuts costs and opens up hospital beds. This has led to a dramatic increase in the size of the region’s home patient population as well as the complexity of these patients.
However, working conditions for healthcare professionals who care for patients at home have not kept pace with environmental or market changes, prompting healthcare professionals at the Boston VNA to unionize with the MNA. . In December, the HCP delivered a petition signed by 100% of the membership to the office of VNA CEO Todd Rose. The petition said they expect the organization to negotiate with them in good faith for a fair, just and good first contract for patients and members.