Despite our best efforts to clearly lay out our case, an American Arbitration Association (AAA) arbitrator has issued a decision in favor of management's unfair holiday scheduling position.
We began seeking a solution months before scheduling for the holidays began, but management clearly had their minds made up.
We offered to work together to find an appropriate compromise, but they refused. We pointed out that many nurses already had their weekend split due to being scheduled on the holiday, but not the weekend; that didn't matter to management. We stressed that employees were going to miss time with their families due to this scheduling — especially those who work 12-hour shifts; that did not persuade them.
That’s why we sought to enforce what we perceived was a contract right through the grievance and arbitration procedure in our collective bargaining agreement with Backus Hospital, to plead our case. We believed we were on solid ground and were cautiously optimistic that a neutral arbitrator would rule in our favor, which he did not.
We testified that our contract language clearly states that employees will not be scheduled both Christmas Eve and Day or New Year’s Eve and Day to the extent practicable. Hospital management took the position that it would be to hard for their schedulers to split weekends for nurses who were on both the weekend and the holiday.
The arbitrator’s ruling was based on a clause in our contract stating that management has the right to determine schedules.
The decision is disappointing on many levels. We heard from so many of our members who shared how management's scheduling will affect them and their families.
We work for an organization that claims to care about "doing the right thing, doing the kind thing, leveraging separate realities.” Yet they refused to abide by their own words when it comes to their own caregivers. Hartford HealthCare's nurses and staff are the heart and soul of this organization; we work weekends and holidays, and are there when our patients need us, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Management was unwilling to see our point of view or even acknowledge our reality on this issue.
Taking the arbitration route to resolve any labor-management dispute carries risks, particularly since the decision is considered final. But as a union, we cannot simply sit on the sidelines when members are being treated unjustly, regardless of what contractual rights management claims. Despite this outcome, we must remain committed to achieving a fair and just resolution that respects our members for the vital care we provide our patients.
Click here to send an email sharing how you'd like to be part of our ongoing efforts to win fairness for our members on the holiday scheduling issue.
Michelle Hayes, RN
President, Backus Federation of Nurses, AFT Local 5149