UIHC Nurses’ union files complaint over Board of Regents bargaining tactics

Negotiations stall between both parties
Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 11:02 PM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWQC) - The union that represents nurses and other healthcare workers in the largest hospital system in Iowa has filed a labor complaint against the Board of Regents over bargaining practices in their most recent round of negotiations

The Service Employees International Union in Iowa City, held an informational picket Tuesday morning, as they claim the Board of Regents walked away from the bargaining table. SEIU represents about 3,800 nurses and other healthcare professionals in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics system.

On Feb. 8, the union announced in a press release it filed a “Prohibited Practice Complaint” against the board. The release states SEIU feels the regents weren’t bargaining in good faith.

SEIU and the board are in the process of negotiating a new two-year contract. The current contract ends in July.

In its most recent meetings, the union came to the table with a 15% wage increase and claims the board returned with an offer for increases of 1.5%.

Jolene Gales a member of the bargaining team said they’re frustrated.

“There’s so many hardworking people here at UIHC,” Gales said. “There’s a lot of people that love UIHC. We went through a lot with a pandemic, and we’re just asking to be respected.”

In a statement to TV6 News, Josh Lehman, the Communications Director for the Iowa Board of Regents confirmed the board is negotiating with the union, but didn’t provide further details.

“The Board of Regents team has been negotiating with SEIU and are continuing to follow the collective bargaining process,” Lehman wrote. “There have been exchanges of offers and we are hopeful that we can come to a voluntary agreement.”

Pat Doser has been with UIHC for 38 years. He and other nurses said while they’re happy with some benefits, pay increases are not keeping up with inflation.

“I’ve been here so long,” Doser said. “You’re not seeing that anymore, because people are realizing in order to get better financial gain, they have to move in order to do that and find different institutions to work for.”

SEIU isn’t just asking for pay increases. They’re hoping to get shift differential and security pay, as well as safer working conditions.

“Workplace violence we’ve seen an increase on the floors, with patients, even family members towards staff,” Gales said. “So just getting it to be safe and not having tolerance and getting ... safety pay if we’re having multiple code greens and escalation to that point.”

Doser said this particular labor dispute could impact Iowans from the Quad Cities to Sioux City.

“The university receives the sickest of the sick,” Doser said. “What you’re seeing is a deterioration in the work base. And people struggling to get by.”

Members have not yet authorized a strike, and union leaders couldn’t answer whether or not they eventually intend to hold a vote to do so.