An upcoming vote is all that stands in the way of the formal authorization of a tentative agreement reached last week between Providence Health and Services nurses and hospital management following months of negotiations over safety standards, improved staffing levels and wage increases for retention and recruitment purposes.
A press release from UFCW 21’s Special Projects Manager Tom Geiger reports that the tentative agreement reached between the unionized nurses and the organization includes no cuts to time off, sick leave and healthcare.
In addition to improved safety standards, staffing levels and wage increases to recruit and retain “high quality” staff at all Providence hospitals, Geiger also notes ratified bonus payments and better language to increase employee power as union workers push back against management’s future attempts to “intimidate.”
He further explained how Providence workers have fought for and won the right to line up contract expirations allowing staffers to take action in greater numbers during the next round of negotiations.
Voting will take place from Jan. 21 through Jan. 24 at six Providence locations in Washington state.
Geiger said labor talks were going “nowhere” until coordinated efforts on the part of UFCW 21, SEIU Healthcare 1199 NW and WSNA issued 10-day notices to strike, which forced a “breakthrough.”
“This was followed by around the negotiations and ongoing unity that resulted in historic tentative agreements being reached across all of our bargaining units. We did it together,” he said.
Another key member in the months-long impasse was Providence Centralia’s 41-year registered nurse Diane Stedham-Jewell, who as a UFCW 21 shop steward made several recent trips to Seattle to speak on behalf of her fellow nurses.
She notified The Chronicle that the negotiating team is recommending a yes vote to all its unionized hospital workers and also acknowledged how she is both pleased, but emotionally spent by the required time and effort it took for both sides to meet in the middle.
“We are extremely pleased that we have no takeaways and improved language benefitting our nurses throughout the proposed contract. I’ve served on several contract negotiations and this was by far the most mentally and emotionally difficult one. It was extremely discouraging for me personally, as I felt it was necessary to continually remind management of the value of RNs working at Providence Centralia. We have highly skilled nurses who work very hard — and often with less resources — to provide this community with exceptional medical care,” Stedham-Jewell said.
The longtime Providence Centralia employee was grateful for the support the nurses received from local residents. That public backing, she concluded, is why she chooses to work at a smaller hospital that places a premium on community care.