Nurses At 2 Providence-Affiliated Hospitals Reach Tentative Agreements

Providence_St._Vincent's_Hospital.MOStevens.Wikimedia.jpeg

Negotiating teams representing nearly 2,000 nurses at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland and Providence Willamette Falls in Oregon City have reached tentative labor agreements with management, a spokesperson for the Oregon Nurses Association told The Lund Report. 

The tentative agreements came Wednesday morning after a marathon 24-hour bargaining session, Kevin Mealy, a spokesperson for the Oregon Nurses Association, said later in the day. The tentative agreements, if approved, would avert strikes that have been authorized by nurses at both hospitals.

Nurses at each hospital usually bargain separately with Providence Health & Services officials and reach their own terms. In this case, the bargaining teams from the two hospitals and one other, Providence Milwaukie, met jointly with Providence for the session even though their contracts will still be agreed upon separately, Mealy said. In all, the three hospitals employ more than 2,000 nurses, with Providence St. Vincent the largest with about 1,600 nurses.

"This would be for the first time in history more than half of the Providence nurses represented by ONA were in the same room” through their bargaining teams, Mealy said. 

Nurses still have to approve their respective tentative agreements in separate votes at each hospital. If nurses at one hospital vote to approve, nurses at the other hospital could still reject their own deal — and potentially strike if negotiations fail.

Sticking points that were resolved in the tentative agreements include equal pay scales among the hospitals and staff coverage for nurses during breaks, Mealy said. 

In a statement, Providence said: “We are grateful for the tremendous work by the members of the respective negotiating teams toward reaching agreements that serve our nurses, patients, and the community.”

Each hospital “looks forward to continuing to work together with ONA and our registered nurses toward the shared goal of providing high-quality, compassionate care for the patients and communities we serve,” according to the statement.  

Tentative Agreement Details

Nurses’ union bargaining teams for both hospitals on Wednesday sent an email to nurses that announced the tentative agreements. 

 “ONA nurses’ substantial level of engagement and collaboration across our bargaining units led to a historic negotiating session where two bargaining teams secured contracts with significant improvements addressing our key priorities set at the outset of our negotiating campaigns,” the email, obtained by The Lund Report, said. “Member commitment, including our firm strike deadline, led to Providence changing its attempts at separating our negotiating committees and agree to an unprecedented coordinated bargaining session of multiple units.”The two-year tentative agreement includes:

  • Retroactive pay raises for nurses and wage increases that the nurses union says will make the hospitals competitive in the market. The contract for both hospitals expired in December 2021.
  • Stronger language that enables nurses to have adequate rest and meal breaks and keeps Providence accountable. For example, Providence St. Vincent will start a pilot program with “break nurses” so other nurses get breaks during their 12-hour shifts, Mealy said.
  • Staffing and scheduling language that “supports safe patient care and nurse practice,” the email said.

The email said more specifics would be released soon.

“Over the next few days, our negotiating teams are working on a detailed summary of the tentative agreements,” the bargaining teams said. “We appreciate our fellow RNs support and trust as we work on a complete summary of the agreements.”

Negotiations Grew Tense

As The Lund Report first reported, earlier this month nurses at Providence St. Vincent rejected a prior tentative agreement negotiated by the two sides, increasing the prospect of a strike and adding to the pressure on the bargaining teams.

In fact, an item on the union’s website, posted before the new tentative deal was reached, said that a strike at Providence St. Vincent was planned for July 11. An email sent out to nurses at Providence St. Vincent after they rejected the first agreement put out a call for training to prepare for the picket lines.

Nurses at all three hospitals in May and June separately authorized a strike if an agreement was not reached. The vote at Providence St. Vincent to authorize a strike happened in May. In early June, nurses at the other two hospitals voted to authorize a strike: Providence Willamette Falls in Oregon City, which has 233 nurses; and Providence Milwaukie, which has 239 nurses.

Votes on the new tentative agreements are not yet scheduled, Mealy said. Under their bylaws, nurses at Providence St. Vincent’s will not vote for at least two weeks to allow time for discussion. For nurses at Providence Willamette Falls, voting is expected to start in about a week or slightly longer, Mealy said.

At Providence Milwaukie the two sides appear close to reaching a tentative agreement, Mealy said. But they haven’t been negotiating as long as their counterparts at the other two hospitals.

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.

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