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Staff Editorial

Delayed pay may be legal, but it's unfair to UIHC nurses

(File photo) People walk along the skyway over Hawkins Drive at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(File photo) People walk along the skyway over Hawkins Drive at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Nurses at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics aren’t working overtime for a good reason: They aren’t getting paid on time. A story last week by The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller revealed UIHC moved nurses to a delayed-pay schedule, meaning if nurses work overtime they may not see their compensation for six weeks.

The hospital calls the lack of pay an “extended payout schedule,” and they have been using it since 2017 after Iowa lawmakers stripped public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights.

The payout schedule is forcing some nurses at UIHC to consider moving or retiring. Nurses showed The Gazette texts from the hospital revealing a critical shortage of volunteers to cover the overtime shifts. Consequently, nurses are being mandated to cover the shifts, resulting in long hours on the job, and compensation six weeks away.

It’s worth pointing out that pay is not being delayed to surgeons and anesthesiologist, who can be billed per service provided.

In Iowa, 95 percent of nurses are women, who already earn 25.2 percent below the national average. And while the hospital can delay payouts to maximize its budgets, nurses can’t delay paying rent or for day care on time.

Refusing to pay nurses on time is another way of taking advantage of the overworked and underpaid women of the state, who are the primary point of care for patients.

UIHC has been trying to claw its way out of a precarious financial situation. The hospital began the fiscal 2018 fiscal with a deficit. In April of this year, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled against the hospital in a yearslong dispute with Modern Piping, over unpaid labor and construction costs for the Children’s Hospital. That same month, UIHC also settled dispute with Merit Construction, another contractor involved in the construction of the Children’s Hospital.

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Additionally, Iowa is facing a critical shortage of nurses and qualified health care workers all over the state. And nothing says, move to Iowa, like not paying nurses.

It’s a classic stop hitting yourself scenario: The hospital is trying to fix its budget on the backs of the very people it needs to provide high-quality health care. And in doing so, is alienating the very workforce it needs to be able to provide that health care. Of course UIHC is able to do this only because of GOP-led changes to collective bargaining rights.

A lawyer for the Service Employees International Unionsent a letter to the hospital calling the practice unlawful. But UIHC argues the payout schedule is legal.

Legality aside, the six-week delayed payout schedule is a system that values the income of the hospital over the rights of the workers and the care of patients.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262: editorial@thegazette.com

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