Dignity Health, nurses agree to meet over pension plan dispute

Registered nurses and San Francisco-based Dignity Health are at odds over proposed changes in Dignity’s pension plan, and the two sides plan to talk things over in the near future.

The agreement to meet averted registered nurses’ plans to hold candlelight rallies today at 19 Dignity Health hospitals in California and Nevada.

The California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee-Nevada – representing about 12,000 Dignity RNs – said the rallies were organized to protest what they called a threatened rollback in retirement benefits.

CNA said nurses received a letter from Dignity “announcing a unilateral 30 percent reduction in monthly pension benefits for Dignity RN retirees through a change in the formula used to determine the amount of monthly benefit.”

CNA members voted to ratify a four-year agreement with Dignity Health in September. Under terms of the latest collective bargaining contract, CNA says both sides agreed that “any change in benefits and all other terms and conditions of the pension plan during the life of the agreement shall be negotiated between the parties.”

CNA officials said nurses are opposed to any rollback in retirement security for RNs.

Dignity confirmed that it is working to arrange a meeting with CNA to discuss the pension plan. It did not get into specific numbers but issued a statement that said Dignity notified CNA of updates in the pension plan in April and that “representatives from the California Nurses Association did not raise any concerns at the time of the notification, or during subsequent contract negotiations during which the pension was discussed in detail.”

The Dignity statement said: “The changes proposed to the plan reflect identical changes Dignity Health made in 2012 to plans held by employees represented by other unions as well as all non-represented employees.” Dignity said the changes “are being calculated using actuarial factors from the Pension Protection Act of 2006 as a guide. They more accurately reflect current market conditions and increased life expectancies.”

The statement added that Dignity “is committed to ensuring that our retirees and beneficiaries receive the benefits they have earned. No employee will receive a lesser annuity benefit than they currently have today as a result of these changes.”

Dignity Health bills itself as one of the nation’s five largest health care systems, with a 21-state network of nearly 11,000 physicians, 56,000 employees and more than 300 care centers.

Its Sacramento-region hospitals include Mercy General Hospital and Methodist Hospital of Sacramento, Woodland Healthcare, Mercy Hospital of Folsom, Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley.