Nurses protest proposed contract changes

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Several dozen unionized nurses and supporters crowded a sidewalk outside the University of Kansas Hospital Monday night to protest possible changes to how they are paid.

The main sticking point in the contract for the union currently winding its way through the hospital's internal review system are cuts to so-called premium pay for nurses who work primarily evenings and nights.

The hospital says fully 65 percent of the 1,400 union nurses who would be affected by the change would see a raise in their first year. About a quarter would see a small pay cut.

"These cuts could mean nurses are leaving and we just would hate to see our great nurses leave to go to other hospitals for better pay," Emily Harvey said, the nurses union president.

A spokesperson at the hospital disagreed, saying the changes to the contract were all market-based (thanks in part to uncertainty surrounding the health care law), and would still leave nurses better compensated than their peers at other hospitals.

"The contact that is on the table is a fair contract," hospital spokesperson Jill Chadwick said. "It is market-driven, it is competitive and it will place these nurses at the end of the day in this market at the top or at the very top of the pay scale for nurses in this market."

Monday's protest was the second in as many months.

"We are going through an impasse process and we want to honor the process, so anything- any tactics that distract from the process disappoint us," Chadwick said.

The hospital's internal process for vetting the contract could be finished and a final decision made by the board by late January.

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