Nurses’ contract includes pay hikes

The nurses will receive a 2.5% increase as of July 1, a 4% increase in April 2023 and a 6% hike in April 2024.

WhidbeyHealth nurses secured “many important and historic gains” in a three-year contract finalized this week, according to a spokesperson for the Washington State Nurses Association.

The 135 nurses who work for the public hospital district will receive raises this year and the next two years under a contract overwhelmingly ratified by the union members Tuesday and approved by the hospital board Thursday. The nurses will receive a 2.5% increase as of July 1, a 4% increase in April 2023 and a 6% hike in April 2024.

The increases in 2023 and 2024 are minimums since there is a possibility of additional hikes through wage reopeners, according to Ruth Schubert, director of communications for the union.

The nurses had been working on a nine-month temporary contract.

“Both groups appeared to recognize that the Whidbey nurses were far behind the area market in wages and that wage gap was getting in the way of attracting and retaining nurses at the hospital,” Schubert wrote in an email. “We believe that starting to close that wage gap will benefit both the community and nurses so that WhidbeyHealth can staff appropriately, with enough nurses on every shift to give patients the care they deserve.”

The nurses also negotiated other concessions involving daily overtime, rest between shifts, work on days off, premium pay for floating nurses and “meaningful” layoff language, according to the union. The union successfully fought off proposals from hospital officials that would force nurses to use paid time off if their department is closed for a holiday and a reduction in the paid-time-off cap.

Ron Wallin, hospital board president, spoke about the importance of retaining staff as well as attracting new hires. Nancy Fey, a board member, thanked the nurses for their patience.

WhidbeyHealth officials did not answer by press time questions about the cost of the increases and the range of nurse wages.

“WhidbeyHealth has been struggling to recruit and retain nurses for years because of the relatively low pay in our contract,” Gwen Parrick, a hospice nurse, said. “We’re hopeful that with this new, hard-won contract we’ll see more nurses come to Whidbey and more nurses stay. I think I can fairly say that every single nurse at Whidbey got into this profession to provide excellent care to every single patient. Having adequate staff will allow us to do that.”