Temple University Hospital nurses, hospital technicians, and allied professionals reached a new three-year contract with management on Monday evening, avoiding a strike.
Around 2,500 of the hospital’s employees had been working without a contract since their previous contracts expired on Sept. 30. On Friday, around 89% of the hospital’s technical specialists and allied health professionals represented by Temple Allied Professionals ratified the contract. The new contract will now provide coverage for these employees, making Temple nurses the highest paid in Pennsylvania because of an undisclosed wage increase, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported.
“[The contract] will help us retain seasoned nurses and better care for our patients; it’s a transformational win,” said Temple University Hospital ICU nurse and Temple University Hospital Nurses Association President Mary Adamson.
Temple Allied Professionals and TUHNA union groups began negotiating the new contract in August. Both groups are affiliated with the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, a union group that represents over 8,000 nurses and other health professionals.
According to PASNAP, the contract includes historic gains in wages and compensation in addition to significant improvements in workplace violence prevention and reducing mandatory overtime.
The new contract also includes terms to decrease the patient-to-nurse ratio and implement more safety measures at the North Philadelphia hospital campus, such as 24/7 security and metal decorators to identify concealed weapons. A review process for incidents of workplace violence, thefts, and vandalism is also included in the new contract.
“Hospital staff numbers have dwindled nationwide due to burnout and short-sighted bottom-line decisions,” Temple University Hospital nurse and PASNAP president Maureen May said in a statement.
May added that the contract emphasized the retention of caregivers and prioritized caregivers’ well-being.
The contract comes after COVID-19 has resulted in an increased workload for hospital staff, since the pandemic brought burnout, increased rates of retirement, and career changes, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
At Temple University Hospital’s main campus in North Philadelphia, hospital workers have cited chronic staffing shortages from the pandemic as a main cause of violence from patients and visitors. Nationwide, healthcare professionals are among the workers at the highest risk of getting harassed, assaulted, or threatened while on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Several hundred union nurses, health technicians, and other workers staged an informational picket outside the hospital on Sept. 23 to raise awareness of unsafe working conditions.
On Oct. 13, TUHNA and TAP union members voted to authorize a 10-day strike if they could not come to a contract agreement with hospital leadership. At the time, union leaders claimed that Temple University Hospital had not sufficiently addressed their concerns with staffing levels, employee retention, workplace violence, and other resources for workers.
In response to the Oct. 13 strike authorization, Temple Health emphasized its commitment to “reach an agreement that allows [them] to keep doing what matters most: providing the highest-quality care to our patients.”
The new contracts are set to run from Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2025.