Yesterday, Kittitas County Public Hospital District No. 1 adopted a resolution declaring a state of impasse in the ongoing negotiations between Kittitas Valley Healthcare (KVH) and the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA).The resolution authorizes Kittitas Valley Healthcare to implement a last, best, and final offer as early as June 1, 2013.
KVH and WSNA have been working on a new collective bargaining agreement over the past 18 months. The parties met in seven negotiation sessions, followed by six mediation sessions with a mediator from the Public Employees Relations Commission. The most recent mediation sessions have not resulted in progress towards a new agreement.
The prior two agreements between KVH and WSNA were made during very different economic times. Since then, the financial position of health care employers, particularly small public hospital districts like Kittitas County Public Hospital District No. 1 (which does business as Kittitas Valley Healthcare), has changed. Payment for services has not kept pace with expenses. Continued cuts to state and federal funding, including recent 2-percent cuts to Medicare payments as part of sequestration, have had a direct impact on payment.
The last, best, and final offer that will be implemented on June 1, 2013, will be in effect from June 1, 2013 through May 31, 2016 (three years). Across-the-board wage increases outlined by the agreement will be given if the organization meets a 3.4% operating margin in a given year. These increases are more modest than in previous agreements, ranging from 0.5% to 1.0%. Step increases for experience will continue, ranging from 2.1% to 3.4% per step. Most other details of the agreement will remain the same as the most recent agreement that was accepted by both KVH and WSNA.
KVH has an obligation to continue negotiations with WSNA. If a new agreement is reached during the next three years that is acceptable to both KVH and WSNA it can be adopted to replace the last,best, and final offer.
Both parties have invested a great deal of time and effort over the past 18 months into negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. KVH is disappointed that a mutually acceptable agreement was not reached, but, as a public hospital district, it has a responsibility to ensure that high quality healthcare is available to the community at an affordable cost.