Thursday, January 5, 2012

New York’s registered nurses outraged over Governor’s pension proposal... Nurses Association responds to Cuomo’s 2012 State of State address

A pension reform initiative, discussed today by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in his annual State of the State message, would do more harm to the state’s healthcare workforce than good, according to the New York State Nurses Association, which represents the interests of the state’s 270,000 registered nurses.

Although the creation of a Tier VI for future employees is designed to reduce pension costs, it would have the unintended long-term consequences of driving qualified nurses out of public service and even to other states.

Provisions in the Governor’s proposal include raising the retirement age for public sector employees from 62 to 65, ending early retirement, and extending the qualification period for vesting. But under Tier VI, public sector pensions would be less competitive with those in the private sector, which have a lower retirement age and lower contribution rates.

The Nurses Association believes this would be counter-productive to the years of efforts to increase recruitment and retention by public health employers like the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation that have experienced a shortage of staff for years.

“Nursing is a physically demanding profession,” said Anne Bove, a NYSNA leader for Health and Hospitals Corporation nurses. “They’re at constant risk of exposure to contagious disease, physical and mental stress, and workplace violence.”

Studies have shown that, because of the physically taxing nature of their work, nurses suffer a higher incidence of neck, back, and leg knee injuries than construction workers.

“These physical factors are made worse by the level of stress in today’s healthcare environment, which is unbelievably high,” said Bove. “As a result, the majority of registered nurses simply cannot make it to the customary retirement age of 65 – because of health conditions they developed while on the job. They need help to care for themselves and their families. Yet this would all be undermined by the Governor’s pension proposal.”

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