KANSAS CITY, KAN. Nurses supporting a union at the Kansas University Medical Center are criticizing management's recent use of Kansas University Endowment Fund money to pay a consulting firm that some say specializes in thwarting hospital union drives.
Nurses will vote whether they want a union in less than two weeks. They have been organizing since last summer.
Leaders of the KU Nurses Assn. question whether it's appropriate for university officials to use money from the endowment fund to pay for the services of Management Science Associates Inc., of Independence, Mo.
University officials say that although endowment money is seldom spent on consulting fees, certain limited money is available and can be used for general administrative purposes.
PERSONNEL officials confirmed they used about $16,000 from the endowment fund to pay for two weeks of consulting from the firm earlier this year.
Richard Mann, KU's director of information resources, said the firm was hired to assess employee conditions and advise management what they can and cannot do during the campaign.
He said he wasn't sure whether KU would use the firm again before the election, which will be conducted by the Public Employee Relations Board. But he said the hospital had asked that as much as $12,000 be made available from the state in case the hospital decides to call the consulting firm back.
THE AFL-CIO in Washington lists the firm on a sheet of alleged union-busting firms, but MSA president James Velghe said his firm supplies a wide range of consulting services to the health care industry. He said less than 10 percent of his clients were facing organizing drives.
The nurses began organizing because of frustration over poor communication with administrators and low morale caused by high turnover and low pay, they say.
Since then, hospital administrators have taken steps to alleviate the nurse shortage by bringing in nurses from elsewhere. And earlier this year, a law was approved that gives KU more discretion in setting nurses' salaries, which could help retain senior nurses.