OAKLAND – The California Nurses Association (CNA) reached agreement, Sept. 12, on a new four-year contract with Kaiser Permanente, covering 10,200 registered nurses and nurse practitioners at 54 facilities in Northern California, that among other gains, banned mandatory overtime.

“To CNA,” said Rose Ann de Moro, executive director of CNA, “ending this abusive practice that harms patients and tears at the fabric of our nursing infrastructure, has been a top priority.”

Nurses have long fought to eliminate forced overtime because it not only harms patients but also contributes to the hospital nursing shortage by driving frustrated nurses out of the profession. Kaiser agreed to eliminate mandatory overtime by January 2003.

Aside from the victory on mandatory overtime, CNA won salary increases of 26.5 percent over the course of the contract, which will allow long term RNs to earn $100,000 a year by 2006. Salary differentials between nurses’ pay in smaller cities like Fresno and Sacramento will move closer to pay rates in San Francisco.

Pension benefits will triple under the new contract, and 401(k) plans will be dropped.

Union members will vote on the new contract during the next month, and, if ratified, the agreement will be retroactive to August 31. The old contract had expired on September 6, and agreement on the new contract came the following day. It is the largest single nurses’ contract in the U.S. Deborah Burger, chair of the CNA bargaining committee, stated she believes the package is so attractive that it will help turn around the nation’s acute nursing shortage.

The author can be reached at ncalview@igc.org