RELEASE: After Uniting to Fight COVID, Univ. of Iowa Caregivers Kick Off Contract Talks with Innovative Partnership Proposal

– 4,000 nurses and professionals at University of Iowa Health Care (UIHC) begin talks for a new union contract on Wednesday at 1 p.m.

– UIHC adopted the slogan “We Stand Together” during the pandemic; caregivers are putting those words into action with an innovative partnership proposal

– In a livestreamed presentation, the union team will call on UIHC administration and Iowa Regents to work together on solutions to staffing, pandemic challenges

WHAT: 4,000 Univ. of Iowa caregivers kick off contract talks with innovative partnership proposal

WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 13, 1 p.m.

WHERE: Livestreamed at Iowa Board of Regents YouTube page: bit.ly/IowaRegentsYouTube (Livestream link also available at: www.iowaregents.edu)

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Download our Powerpoint proposal here with strong images of UIHC caregivers || Contact us for online interviews with union bargaining team members || Read today’s Des Moines Register op-ed by a UIHC caregiver

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IOWA CITY — After uniting to fight COVID-19, caregivers at University of Iowa Health Care (UIHC) are kicking off contract talks today with an innovative partnership proposal.

In a livestreamed presentation at 1 p.m., the union team will call on the UIHC administration and the Iowa Regents to work together with frontline staff to protect care and solve staffing and pandemic challenges.

UIHC adopted the slogan “We Stand Together” when COVID-19 hit the hospital. The 4,000 nurses and professional staff at UIHC, who are united in SEIU Local 199, seek a contract that will put those words into action. Here are the essentials of the proposal the SEIU Local 199 bargaining team will make:

  • Build a true Labor-Management Partnership so frontline staff have input into the decisions that affect care and can offer ideas to improve patient outcomes.
  • End financially unnecessary furloughs that have exacerbated staffing problems at UIHC. UIHC’s operating income came in $14 million over budget in fiscal 2020, but it is still furloughing staff. At the same time, UIHC is severely restricting vacation for many staff and hiring high-priced agency nurses and temps. This makes no financial sense and stresses staff caring for Iowa during the pandemic.
  • Invest in competitive pay and implement policies that stem the alarming rise in turnover among experienced staff. Pay for nurses in Iowa ranks 48th among the states, and compensation for RNs and professional staff at UIHC lags far behind peer institutions. This fall, UIHC also made sudden and demoralizing changes to schedules and overtime pay. Addressing these issues will provide much needed help with retention. In 2018, roughly 160 caregivers with over 10 years’ experience left UIHC; in 2020, almost 470 did.

The UIHC caregivers go into these negotiations with major momentum. In October, they voted 2,828 to 38 to keep their union in a recertification election required for Iowa public employees.

Negotiators for the Iowa Regents, who oversee UIHC, will respond to the union proposal on Thur., Jan. 21 at 1 p.m.

SEIU Local 199 represents 5,000 healthcare and public service workers across Iowa. It is an affiliate of the 2-million-member Service Employees International Union. SEIU’s Healthcare Division includes 1 million nurses, lab techs, environmental service workers and other vital staff who serve 60 million patients and clients.

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