Most MU weekend nurses sign incentive pay changes

Thursday, May 8, 2014 | 12:23 p.m. CDT; updated 5:36 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 8, 2014

COLUMBIA — Nearly all the weekend nurses working for MU Health Care have agreed to sharp reductions in incentive pay.

The hospital had announced in late March that it would reduce incentive pay for weekend nurses to 24 percent. Some nurses had been receiving up to 54 percent above their regular wage as incentive pay, with others getting 30 percent. The agreement also reduces the number of weekends the nurses can take off.

Spokeswoman Mary Jenkins said 250 of the 292 weekend nurses signed the agreement, with a few nurses currently on leave who might also sign up. Those who didn't sign won't receive incentive pay. The program begins July 6.

"We are delighted with the response so far," Jenkins said.

The incentive program began during a nursing shortage in the 1980s and is now being reduced for financial reasons and because the need for registered nurses has decreased, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

The agreement also requires all the nurses to work a minimum of two 12-hour shifts 48 out of 52 weekends every year. Previously, the nurses were able to take off up to nine weekends per year.

At least one nurse, Tami Verner, 55, said she chose to resign rather than sign the agreement. Verner, who has worked weekends for MU Health Care for 31 years, was receiving 54 percent incentive pay.

"I understand, really," Verner said. "I know they are in a crunch financially, but I just thought that was pretty aggressive."

She said the cuts come as nurses' work gets harder.

"I just was not going to work harder with sicker patients for less money," she said. "Also, I wasn't going to come to work all that happy knowing I was making 30 percent less money this week than last week, you know?"

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