WASHINGTON — VA signed a national master collective bargaining agreement with National Nurses Organizing Committee, National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) — the union that represents more than 13,707 VA nurses.
The agreement will help VA’s dedicated nurses continue delivering more care to more Veterans than ever before in our nation’s history. It will also help VA better retain nurses, hire nurses more quickly, improve the safety environment for nurses, and add the nurses required to implement the PACT Act — the largest expansion of Veteran health care and benefits in decades.
VA nurses deliver world-class care to Veterans every day. During the pandemic, VA nurses helped provide more than 332 million health care appointments to Veterans, care for more than 870,000 Veterans with COVID-19, and vaccinate more than 4.4 million Veterans. Thanks in large part to the work of VA’s nurses, a recent national review of more than 40 peer-reviewed studies showed that VA care is consistently as good as – or better than – non-VA health care. And among the Veterans who receive their care from VA, approximately 90% trust VA to deliver their care – a testament to the work of VA nurses.
This agreement is a part of VA’s broader efforts to support bargaining unit employees and execute President Biden’s Executive Order on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. More than 79% of all VA’s public servants are bargaining unit employees, and VA is committed to supporting them as they serve our nation’s Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.
“Nurses are the bedrock of VA health care, saving and improving Veterans’ lives every day,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “This agreement with NNOC/NNU helps us hire, support, retain, and onboard VA’s incredible nurses — which, in turn, will help us continue delivering world-class care to our nation’s Veterans.”
The agreement with NNU will help VA continue its efforts to hire and retain nurses. In the first half of fiscal year 2023, VA hired 6,568 registered nurses, 1,216 licensed practical nurses, and 1,768 nursing assistants — more hires in these three critical occupations than at any time in the past 20 years. In total, VA expects to exceed its goal of hiring 10,678 nurses this year. These efforts build on additional hiring and retention efforts for nurses during fiscal year 2022, including raising wages for nearly 10,000 VA nurses and increasing pay flexibility for nurses through PACT Act authorities. As a result of these efforts, nursing turnover rates at VA remain far lower than in the private sector.
This agreement with NNU follows three key agreements VA made with the National Federation of Federal Employees in February and a tentative agreement with AFGE in April. Additionally, over the past two years, VA has taken several critical steps to support all bargaining unit employees, including 1) reestablishing the National Partnership Council, a forum for open communication between labor leaders and VA leadership; 2) restoring official time for doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and other Title 38 employees, meaning that these employees can use work hours to advocate on behalf of their bargaining unit coworkers; 3) reestablishing yearly and Semi-Annual Labor Management meetings with VA union partners; and 4) including the unions in critical employee-centric decisions, such as the creation of the VHA Reduce Employee Burnout and Optimize Organizational Thriving Task Force to address employee burnout.
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