Nurses take hospitals to US court for competitive pay

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In the middle of a critical shortage of nursing staff in the United States, it is being alleged that major hospital chains have been conspiring to depress salaries for nurses for years. A class-action lawsuit was filed in four American cities on Tuesday claims that human resources staff illegally contacted each other and exchanged private salary information on nurses in an effort to prevent them from receiving competitive salaries.

Throughout the western nations there is currently a shortage of nursing staff, both registered nurses and various support professions. This has lead to a jump in international recruitment of nurses from many nations, but especially lesser-developed countries. The opportunities to obtain work permits and visas for persons from these countries abound where, in some cases, doctors relinquish their credentials in favour of achieving nursing credentials because their chances for entry into countries such as the U.S. and the UK are enhanced.

In the lawsuit, the nurses union is claiming a violation of the United States Anti-Trust Act. It is illegal for independent companies to coordinate wages and prices for professions or products. In a free market, each product or individual will achieve the natural wage or price level according to market demand. What is being alleged is that wages have been kept artificially low, generally averaging about $50,000 USD annual salary plus benefits for certified and experienced nurses.

Further, it is also illegal to exchange private data on individuals under most circumstances under U.S. law. Discussing individuals and their salaries, along with other data, is an egregious violation of several laws.

The nurses are seeking compensation and back-pay in the "hundreds of millions of dollars." They are alleging that the current salary levels are artificially low, and that many benefits are suppressed or denied based upon illegal contact and information exchange between the staffs of nearly every major hospital chain.

If they win, not only will they gain back substantial amounts of their lost compensation, perhaps for ten years or more, but it will break the wage-fixing. Salaries are likely to see a significant boost, along with increased benefits.

The four cities where the lawsuit was filed represent 20 of the top hospital chains. Substantial evidence was collected that indicates human resources staff regularly engaged in wage-fixing throughout the industry.

It is estimated by government sources that in the U.S. alone, there is a shortfall of approximately 170,000 nurses. This is the number of nursing positions that are currently unfilled, beyond the several million nurses currently working.

In the coming years, statistics show that hundreds of thousands of nurses are about to reach retirement age in the U.S., but there are not enough new nurses in school to replace them. Due to the hard work and low wages, many people do not see nursing as a viable career in the U.S., so many have not been entering school for certification.

By the year 2020, it is estimated that the shortfall will exceed more than one million nurses in the United States. Immigration and work opportunities will increase dramatically in this field, and the wages and benefits appear to be headed for a free-market overhaul.

Persons with experience and training from outside the U.S. find that their best opportunities are available if they can graduate from a U.S. university with U.S. certifications. The United States has some of the most rigorous certification and language requirements of all the western nations for employment in the nursing field. Nurses also have some of the strongest opportunities for permanent residency if they wish to persue it.


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