In the midst of a contract battle with Temple Hospital, PASNAP members protested at a ribbon-cutting Friday.
The union representing the Temple University Hospital nurses has filed charges with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, alleging “widespread violations and illegal contract proposals aimed at silencing nurses and potential whistleblowers.”
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of Temple’s new medical school building Friday, members of the Pennsylvania Association for Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals met in protest. Picketing, chanting and marching for about an hour, PASNAP members protested what they called Temple’s bad faith and illegal bargaining practices.
“We’ve specifically filed charges against them for illegal surveillance, retaliation for union activities, of telling people to take off their union stickers or threatening them with discipline for wearing union buttons, illegal bargaining, by virtue of putting non-mandatory subject matter in their final offer [and] making illegal unilateral charges in people’s terms and conditions of employment,” staff representative to Temple nurses Jerry Silberman said.
Silberman said at the protest TUH was photographing nurses, professional staff and union members who attended.
“They have engaged in very detailed surveillance activities. They had three people out there today making sure they got face shots of everybody that was at the events. That’s surveillance. It’s illegal,” Silberman said.
“It’s clearly intended to discourage people from publically advocating for their position, because they’re thinking, ‘Oh, if they take my picture, maybe they’re going to discipline me or something,’” he added.
Among its complaints, the union accused Temple of bad faith and illegal bargaining tactics.
“Bargaining is a fairly complicated thing. There are certain topics in bargaining, which the parties can talk about if they want, but they don’t have to.
“What that means is that if the union were to go on strike on the basis of something that is a non-mandatory subject of bargaining, that strike would be illegal. If management locked out the union over a non-mandatory subject matter, that lockout would be illegal. If management presents a final offer and says, ‘This is our final position. We have no place to move,’ and that includes non-mandatory subjects of bargaining, then that final offer is really illegal,” Silberman said.
PASNAP continues to express concerns over the language of TUHS’s current offer. The nurses’ local union president, registered nurse Maureen May, said in a press release that the proposal was an attempt by Temple to intimidate nurses and professional staff from fulfilling their duties as advocates to their patients.
“Nurses and healthcare professionals have a duty to advocate on behalf of their patients. Sometimes this advocacy involves publicly criticizing hospital policies that deserve to be criticized to improve conditions,” May said. “While Temple may want to sweep bad practices and bad outcomes under the rug, the dedicated Temple nurses will never agree to be silent when our patients’ health could be at risk.”
Bill Cruice, the union’s attorney and executive director called one of their proposals a “gag clause,” which would subject nurses or staff members to potential discipline if they “publically criticize … or make any statement which disparages Temple,” according to the press release distributed Friday.
Rebecca Harmon, public relations director for TUHS, said the claims are misguided and misdirected rhetoric.
Harmon said TUH not only encourages nurses and employees to address their concerns, but requires them to.
“Under both federal and state regulation, it is the licensed and accredited hospital institution that is responsible for ensuring that patient care meets all applicable standards,” Harmon said.
“Temple University Hospital has in place policies, procedures and mechanisms to assure the reporting of and response to patient-care concerns that are raised by employees. Individual employees are not only encouraged, but required, to bring any concerns to the attention of the institution so they may be addressed.”
With the union still pushing the heart of their concern being patient advocacy, Harmon added that “the union’s role is to advocate for its members with regard to wages, benefits and working conditions.
“Neither the labor union nor anyone acting on behalf of the labor union,” she said, “has any role in advocating for our patients within the scope of the collective bargaining agreement or otherwise.”
Valerie Rubinsky can be reached at email@example.com.