Many of you in the community may have read information released by the management of Providence St. Peter and Providence Centralia hospitals regarding the potential strike by the registered nurses. I’m certainly not Paul Harvey, but I would like to tell you the rest of the story.
Providence states they are committed to bargaining in good faith with our nurses. The nurses at Centralia were not even offered a financial package nor informed of their intent to replace our current sick days with a short term disability program until our third bargaining session, three months after our current contract had expired.
Registered nurses at both facilities stand to lose between 16 and 48 hours of paid time off a year. Management states the average hourly wage at Centralia is $44.75 per hour and if we average the hours lost at 38 multiplied by 250 nurses, Providence stands to gain $425,125.00 a year in savings and $1,954,948.00 at Providence St. Peter.
They claim this short-term disability plan will compensate for that loss but in reality very few employees will ever qualify for it. We will have a state short-term disability plan that begins in 2020 supported by our tax dollars. Although the state plan pays for 12 weeks compared to the Providence plan that pays for 25 weeks, the state plan will cover the employee and family members whereas the Providence plan will only cover the employee. The combined total amount payable under both plans is 65 percent of your wage to a maximum of $1,000 per week. In my 41 years of nursing, I have never been absent from work more than 12 weeks. Employees at Providence are not asking for this program nor do they want it.
Unfortunately most employees at the Centralia facility are not protected by union membership and have no recourse to take in fighting back against take aways!
Management states the average yearly income for an RN at Providence Centralia is $81,185.26 after overtime and incentives. Yes we are compensated fairly for working on our day off, and why do we do it? because we went into the profession to help people. It is not uncommon for nurses to be called 3 to 4 times a day (beginning at 4 a.m. for day shift) on their day off requesting them to come in to work because the patient care units are short staffed.
Yearly wages stated are accrued because it is not unheard of for nurses to work an 18-hour shift go home and sleep for 6 hours and come back for their regularly scheduled 12-hour shift. We do this for patient safety so there is enough staff to take care of you and your friends and family when you are ill and in need. We do it to help our co-workers so they don’t have to work one to two people short. This is what we mean when we request safe staffing for patient care.
Management states their proposal includes a commitment to market-competitive wages and yet nurses at Centralia during the first 10 to 12 years of their career earn 25 percent less than nurses in Longview.
This helps to explain the poor retention of RNs. What we have been experiencing for several years is the new graduate being hired, training them for 12 to 18 months and having them depart for positions 45 miles south of here for higher wages $6 to $7 per hour more. We are not asking for a huge hike in wages. We are asking to be paid the same as St Peter’s in Olympia but have been told “You don’t take care of as sick of patients as they do,” Well we might not do open heart and lung surgeries at Centralia but we have plenty of very sick patients, many that we have to stabilize in our Emergency Department or OB Department before transferring to a higher level of care. We don’t have the resources that St Peter’s has and we certainly don’t have the specialists readily available as St Peter’s does. So that theory holds no value to me personally. We work hard and we deserve to be compensated fairly. We don’t have an IV therapy team. We don’t have a stroke team. We don’t have a dedicated code team. What we have is a great team of people who collectively take care of people in crisis and have the ability to know when to advocate for higher levels of care. It takes skill and humility to know when someone needs more care than is available at your facility.
Providence stated, “We believe our proposals not only demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that our nurses feel supported and valued, but also allow us to continue to live our mission.” Our message to Providence is we don’t feel valued when you are taking away our earned time off.
We don’t feel valued when we stand to lose our already earned sick time some in excess of 600 hours. We don’t feel valued when we work 18 hour shifts and still get called multiple times a day on our day off. We don’t feel valued when we work short staffed. We don’t feel valued when we are asked to do more with less. We don’t feel valued when our wages don’t compare to Providence St. Peter and yet the top 14 executives in the Providence system make more than $45 million collectively with CEODr. Rod Hochman earning over $10 million dollars in 2017, which was over a 150 percent raise from 2016.
In closing, I believe it is important to point out this push back against Providence is not only happening in Centralia and Olympia. It is happening statewide involving multiple facilities in Everett, Spokane, Walla Walla, Tri-Cities, and Seattle (Swedish). This involves over 20,000 employees currently working without contracts, who have continued to bargain in good faith and hope to avoid a strike.