Nurses at RWJUH in New Brunswick authorize strike

Concerns about staffing, pay head list of issues — hospital officials say nurses already are among highest-paid in New Jersey

Nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick voted Monday night to authorize a strike.

The union representing the nurses, United Steel Workers Local 4-200, did not set a strike day, but it has 10 days to do so. Negotiations are ongoing.

Judy Danella, president of the union and a registered nurse at the hospital, told NJ Advance Media on Monday afternoon that staffing is the primary concern.

“Staffing is just not improving the way the nurses feel it should be,” she said.

The union also is pushing for higher pay and greater benefits.

According to TapInto New Brunswick, 96% of the nurses at the 965-bed hospital voted to reject the latest offer and move toward a strike.

Officials at RWJUH-New Brunswick, in a statement Tuesday, said they valued the work of the nurses.

“Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital has continued to underscore its utmost respect and appreciation for our nurse colleagues, and we value their service and dedication to this hospital and to our patients.

“It is why we are extremely disappointed that the union leadership even proposed a strike, and that the nursing workforce now has voted to pursue that avenue, rejecting what we believe is a fair and equitable proposal. A strike is an extreme measure that serves no one’s best interest, including the nurses themselves, nor our patients.”

RWJUH officials said the nurses, who are being offered a raise, already are among the highest paid in the state.

“RWJUH nurses already are the highest-paid in the state of New Jersey at every level among their peers at comparable hospitals — even before the proposed increase offered in this contract renewal. To further our commitment to our nursing staff, RWJUH has put forth a generous package that ensures our nurses remain at the top for years to come.

“On average, our wage proposal is 14% higher than the average published rates for similar New Jersey hospitals.”

RWJUH officials said they felt the hospital was working to address the staffing issues.

“The hospital has responded to the union’s staffing questions by adding more than 100 RN full-time employees, along with additional clinical care techs and pediatric care techs,” they said. “(The hospital) is continuing to add RN staff — and has proposed a Collaborative Staffing & Practice Council comprised of five union members and five management members to continue to address staffing concerns.”

RWJUH-New Brunswick is one of 12 acute-care hospitals the system has in the state. It also has three acute-care children’s hospitals as well as Children’s Specialized Hospital.

Each hospital has its own local union. It is unclear what impact, if any, the potential strike will have on the nursing staff at other facilities in the system.

RWJUH officials said they hope they will be able to reach an agreement.

“Throughout this process, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital has been committed to negotiating transparently and in good faith, with the goal of reaching a fair and equitable resolution as quickly as possible,” he said. “We hope that the union will come back to the negotiating table and do the same in order to avert such a disruptive action.”