Skip to main content

St. Charles Medical Center dodges nurses strike with deal over pay, rest breaks

The deal comes after nearly two days of negotiations and as the nurses union threatens strikes at other hospitals
St. Charles Health System in Bend. | COURTESY OF ST. CHARLES HEALTH SYSTEM
June 8, 2023

Nurses and management at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend averted a strike after reaching a tentative deal Thursday morning. 

Hospital management and the Oregon Nurses Association, the union representing the nurses, both announced the deal after roughly two days of negotiations. 

The nurses association formally declared last week that the roughly 1,000 nurses at St. Charles Medical Center were prepared to walk off the job over an impasse in contract negotiations. The agreement is the latest as the politically connected union continues to clash with health systems elsewhere in the state, threatening strikes for better staffing and pay. 

Erin Harrington, a registered nurse and chair of the union’s bargaining committee, said in a statement that nurses have sought a contract that will recruit and retain staff, ensure meal and rest breaks and provide job security in case the hospital is sold. 

The contract, which needs to be approved by the nurses, will increase the starting base wage for a nurse with a bachelor’s by 41% over the contract’s length. Nurses higher on the pay scale will see 48% increases. It’ll also guarantee that nurses will be able to take breaks they are legally entitled to or receive payments if they miss them. 

Harrington called the contract a “game changer.”

“With this contract, we can recruit more nurses, keep the nurses we have, stop the bleeding of nurses leaving the hospital, and ensure our nurses are supported,” Harrington said. 

Officials for St. Charles Health System, which had defended its nursing pay as among the best in the state, issued a short statement indicating management was “pleased” to have reached the tentative agreement on the new three-and-a-half-year contract. The statement said the health system would work with the union to communicate details of the contract to nurses.

Oregon and the rest of the country are facing nurse shortages. Nurses and other health care workers have been pushing to improve the working conditions they say are contributing to the shorages. 

The effort spilled over into the Legislature this year in the fight over a minimum nurse-staffing bill aimed at hospitals. That, in turn led to a compromise that is currently on hold due to the impasse in the Oregon Senate.

You can reach Jake Thomas at [email protected] or via Twitter @jakethomas2009.