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.
Valerie your article was very good and right on with the support for Temple Nurses. the hospital is treating us as third class citizens. We have freedom of speech as a constitutional right. our fight has always been the care of the patients we serve. the hospitals refusal to negotiate says something else. i feel it shows they want us to strike. there main goal is to take away our benefits. most of us left suburban jobs to come to Temple for the benefits. in exchange the hospital got good and quality professionals. this speaks for itself. why would any employer treat its employees so disrespectfully and blue collar. we care for some of the sickest people in the city. this institution does great things on the backs of their dedicated staff. thank you for your support.
Rebecca Harmon’s last comment is simply astonishing. Any individual nurse or health care professional has not just the right but the obligation to “advocate for our patients.” It is no surprise to me that she is trying to silence us just when we have legislation pending in Harrisburg that would establish safe nurse to patient ratios, since our testimony at any hearings would include unsafe staffing examples and thus a potential criticism of Temple.
What the Temple administration refuses to understand is that our patients’ care environment is our work environment and we will always fight for improved standards.
Temple is a public institution, not a for-profit corporation (although their behavior seems more like the latter.) They receive a lot of tax-payer dollars and need to be held publicly accountable.
Patricia Eakin, RN; President of PASNAP; staff nurse in Temple University Hospital’s ER
Ms. Harmon I would like to call your attention to the Definition of Nursing according to the ANA Nursing’s Social Policy Statement: Scope & Standards of Nursing Practice 2nd Ed (2003)
Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations.
I think Temple management is missing the point that Nurses cannot be silenced when their patients’ safety and care is compromised.Nurses know best when their working environment is not safe for their patients for they are right there at the middle of the action.You would think that any negative feedback should be taken as a constructive criticism by management. My hats off to the nurses of TUH for standing for what is right…freedom to speak on behalf of their patients.
I have to agree with Patty Eakin. For Ms. Harmon to state that the union, which is the nurses and professional staff, has no role as patient advocate is itself, to quote Ms. Harmon is rhetoric! Nurses by state law are obligated to practice in the best interest of the patient and may be criminally culpable for not.
Ms. Harmon is correct in stating that the “the union’s role is to advocate for its members with regard to wages, benefits and working conditions”, but she neglected to note is that Temple has not spent very little time actually negotiating wage and benefits. Their response to any economic proposal the bargaining unit presented was NO. Yet, the Temple administration continues to operate in a corporate manner by reducing staff, services and employee compensation while simultaneously rewarding executives with private sector salaries.
Thank you Ms. Rubinsky for your diligent coverage of these important issues.
I have been at Temple for 11 years now and have gone through several contracts. Never have the nurses been so disrespected! Temple management who are involved in negotiations with PASNAP have no idea what we do on a daily basis. We are the people who take care of the patients,saving lives, getting them better,sometimes not having enough supplies or clean equipment or food to give them at night because the cafeteria is closed but we don’t advertise that to the patients or their families because then Temple would look bad.Under those conditions we do the best we can.If Temple cared so much about patient care then they would care about us!They are willing to spend millions of dollars replacing us if we strike instead of negotitaing a fair contract. Walking into a room on the last day of our contract,putting it on the table, then leaving without saying a word is not negotiating.Not to metion rude! We are not in this profession for millions of dollars. To be a nurse or allied professional you have to like your job that’s why not everyone does it. At Temple I’m not just a nurse.I am sometimes the unit clerk, respiratory tech,house keeping and dietary but I do not get paid 5 salaries. Nurses at other hospitals don’t do other peoples jobs but we do so Temple can save money.We do our part now it’s time for management to do theirs by recognizing that and be fair!Temple now wants us to decrease some of our incentives (decreasing our pay) and increasing our health insurance.Call that greedy if you want but I have bills to pay,too and I need to make the same amount not less. Meanwhile the executives make 6 figures if not 7 and they are not at the patients bedside!If Temple really cared about their patients they would respect the nurses and allied professionals by negotiating and stop trying to make us look bad! I use to be proud to work at Temple but now I’m embarrassed!and while I could find another job, I like the people I work with and the patients we care for. As does the many nurses who drive more then 1 hour to get to work coming from as far as Reading,PA. Thank you Ms Rubinsky for shedding some light on our situation and giving us the opportunity to share our side!