Nurses’ union ratifies contract with Veterans Administration

BUFFALO - Members of National Nurses United approved their first-ever nationwide master contract, covering 9,000 RNs at 22 Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and two clinics, in early October, NNU said. The last unit to ratify was in Buffalo, N.Y.

The pact features nurse input on staffing and safety provisions on workplace violence, ergonomics, safe patient handling, and union involvement in safety inspec-tions, among other areas. RNs will be able to report unsafe conditions without reprisal.

The contract limits schedules to 16-hour shifts for emergencies only, allowing time between shifts so nurses can be fully rested. It limits mandatory overtime

"This is precedent-setting both in terms of the rights of RNs in the VA system and for protecting patient care standards. RNs have a process to object to unsafe assignments. There are so many great provisions and new RN rights in this contract," said Irma Westmoreland of the VA Medical Center in Albany, Ga., chair of the union's VA directors.