Nurses at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland have reached a tentative two-year contract with hospital administrators.
The Oregon Nurses Association, which represents the hospital’s 1,600 nurses at the bargaining table, announced the tentative agreement. If nurses accept the offer, there would be no strike at the largest of three Providence hospitals in Oregon where nurses have voted to authorize a strike in the last two months. The Portland hospital’s nurses were the first to authorize a strike in May.
The other two hospitals are Providence Milwaukie Hospital and Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center in Oregon City. Those hospitals have not yet gone on strike, but either or both could do so despite the agreement at Providence St. Vincent. That’s because the labor contract for each hospital is negotiated separately. The two hospitals combined have nearly 500 nurses on staff.
The tentative agreement addresses critical points, such as patient care and safety, nurse practice standards and staffing levels and affordable health care, according to the nurses association. If nurses approve it, the contract would go into effect immediately.
“Nurses are dedicated to putting our patients first,” said John Smeltzer, a registered nurse and president of the union’s executive committee at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, in a statement. “We stood up to one of the nation’s largest health care systems and we’ve reached an agreement to make immediate improvements to our patients’ health care. When frontline nurses spoke out, our community rallied around us. I’m grateful to the thousands of community allies, labor leaders, elected officials and frontline health care workers who stood with nurses to set a new standard of care for our community.”
Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, in a statement to The Lund Report, said the tentative agreement comes after 20 bargaining sessions and nearly eight months.
"In the coming week, ONA will provide PSVMC represented registered nurses more details on the tentative agreement and the planned ratification vote," said Lisa Helderop, a spokesperson for Providence, in an email. "Specifics of the tentative agreement will be available to the general public following the ratification vote by represented nurses. (The hospital) and ONA look forward to continuing our long history of working together collaboratively to support the practice of nursing and providing high-quality, compassionate care for the patients and communities we serve."
The bargaining team is recommending that nurses vote to accept the proposal.
The tentative agreement’s terms include:
- Improved access to appropriate personal protective equipment to prevent future COVID-19 outbreaks and uphold high standards of care.
- Improved nurse staffing that puts safe staffing standards into the contract. Providence also makes a stronger commitment to meet established daily safe staffing standards, the union said. This includes posting and filling vacancies quickly and a task force to monitor the issue.
- Health care costs for nurses are kept in check, with health benefit costs with limited increases in premiums and locked-in costs.
- An increase in wages of up to 14% during the next two years.
Next Steps For Nurses
This week, nurses at the hospital will hear more details about the offer before they vote. The voting is scheduled to start June 20, Kevin Mealy, a spokesperson for the Oregon Nurses Association, said in an email to The Lund Report.
“The tentative agreement sets a new standard and could provide a roadmap to agreements in some areas at other facilities--particularly staffing where nurses secured numerous concessions that will make care safer for nurses and patients,” Mealy said.
Negotiations are continuing at the other Providence hospitals that could still go on strike.
Nurses on the bargaining team for Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center met Friday afternoon with Providence administrators, the union said.
“There was significant movement during negotiations and nurses offered Providence a comprehensive contract proposal based in part on the agreement at Providence St. Vincent,” Mealy said in an email to The Lund Report. “However, we did not receive a comprehensive response back from Providence administrators.”
At Providence Hood River, which has not voted to authorize a strike, the labor contract for nurses has expired. Nurses plan an informational picket within the next month to inform the community, the union said.
Separately, strike planning activities and preparations continue with support from elsewhere in the Providence system. ONA nurses at Providence Home Health and Hospice are planning a strike fundraiser and picnic for nurses at Providence on June 11 in SE Portland, Mealy said.
The Oregon Nurses Association represents more than 15,000 nurses and other health workers in the state, including more than 4,000 nurses working at 10 Providence Oregon health care hospitals and clinics.
You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.