I can hear it now. The Nurses’ Nurse has flipped her lid, Rita Batchley has gone over the deep end into the soda wars. Well, I assure you I haven’t. I’m not speaking of Pepsi, or Coke, or anything like that. I’m writing of COLA:
Cost of Living Adjustments in the form of pay raises.
As the nurses of the Ventura County Health Care Agency (VCHCA) go into contract negotiations, there are many treading on thin ice. Without raises for close to five years, there are some caregivers literally holding on by a thread. As single moms providing for a household; or, as women with husbands out of work, there is much to be said for the fact that COLAs have been nonexistent and merit pay in the form of a nurses’ career ladder falls short of any real monetary lift.
In times of need, the nurses have done their best to make up for what the Taxpayer’s Association have zeroed in on as costs that are driving up future retirement fund deficits. As of two years ago, the healthcare team of RNs, LVNs and Psych-Techs took a pay deduction of 3 % to help meet the burden of certain pensions that are depleting Ventura County.
Even though nurses must work well into their golden years and still can’t attain even 70% of their salaries in retirement, they are doing their part to pitch in to assure that particular groups can get 90 or even over 100% of their pay at the ripe old age of 50.
Let’s face it, female dominated professions have a more difficult time convincing society to compensate for their due worth. In general, women make less than their counterparts doing the same skilled job, but most nurses go to school for a minimum of four years (even though it’s a two year degree!), and it takes another year to be skilled in a specialty to perform independently. Yet, more than half of VCHCA nurses must routinely work several jobs or rely on overtime to make ends meet.
In the last two years VCHCA’s nurses have made leaps and bounds in providing top-notch service, as the number one Trauma Designation of all Ventura county, in meeting the needs of the privately owned HMO HMO, Ventura county Health Care Plan, and for taking care of the mushrooming population without medical insurance. These nurses, who are seeing a 10% increase of patients, are sustaining injuries from assaults and heavy lifting, need more than just a pat on the back. They need COLA, career incentives and accolades for saving lives and money for the county.
Now for the true Christmas Miracle: Our Board of Supervisors will not only see fit to give all the nurses a COLA for the new year, they will also recognize that VCHCA’s: RNs, LVNs and Psych-Techs are just as much the safety officers worthy of the same honor and benefits afforded to the workers carrying a hose or a gun.