University Hospital in Newark – the only state-owned hospital and one of three Level One trauma centers in New Jersey – said Tuesday it finalized a contract deal with nine separate unions representing a combined 3,300 employees.
“At a time of unprecedented public health challenges, University Hospital and its unions were willing to come together to reach financially responsible agreements that recognize the value of our extraordinary employees,” said University Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Shereef Elnahal, also the state’s previous state health commissioner, Tuesday in a statement.
The contracts will run three years, and are retroactive to 2018. That means the contracts would expire sometime in 2021, and that negotiations would have to be underway soon for their replacements.
“Those contracts will be expired pretty soon,” cautioned an official at one of the nine unions, who requested anonymity. Some expire next June, and others next October, this person said.
Still, they said, “It’s a first contract in a long time.”
Contract negotiations will pick up again in March and April and should move fairly quickly, according to John Gerow, president of Teamsters Local 97, which represents more than 1,600 clinical and administrative support workers at University Hospital.
This new contract entails a 2% raise for 2018, and 3% raises for both 2019 and 2020, Gerow said.
“Nobody lived a more difficult period in March, April, May, June” than the University Hospital employees, Gerow said in an interview. “Those people were there every day, breaking their backs.”
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and April, for New Jersey many of the operations and response to the outbreaks in North Jersey were run out of University Hospital. That included a field hospital set up in the nearby Meadowlands.
The Health Professional Allied Employees Local 5094, which represents 505 administrative personnel, is one of the other unions that struck a deal with University Hospital, as is HPAE Local 5089, which represents 904 nurses.
“This contract will help ensure that University Hospital patients receive the kind of high quality care they deserve and are entitled to,” Local 5089 President Cynthia McDougall said in a Tuesday statement. “HPAE has fought hard over the past year to provide a contract that protects both our members and the patients we serve.”
Those features include “stronger target staffing levels for every unit, a comprehensive wage package, non-hostile workplace language, updated language to include provisions of the Workplace Democracy Act and Earned Sick Leave,” McDougall said, though those specifics were not immediately available.
The Communications Workers of America Local 1031, which represents 104 supervisory employees, was one of the other unions, as was the Committee of Interns and Residents representing eight podiatric resident physician; the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 68 which represents 57 carpenters, plumbers and electricians; and the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics Local 200, which represents 24 emergency medical services supervisors.r