SPOKANE, Wash. — Sacred Heart released a statement Wednesday afternoon after mediation with the Washington State Nurses Association ended without an agreement.
In the statement provided by a Providence spokesperson, hospital officials said:
On Oct. 29, Sacred Heart Medical Center and WSNA met for our fifteenth bargaining session. The hospital bargaining team presented a strong package proposal including market-leading wages plus a contract ratification bonus, updates to the sick time plan and 5-7 weeks per year of Paid Time Off. We have requested additional bargaining dates from WSNA, and look forward to coming to an agreement with our nurses so we can continue our Mission to serve our community together.
Nearly 2,000 Sacred Heart members of the Washington State Nurses Association voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike on Oct. 25.
On Oct. 24, 1,280 service and maintenance workers with UFCW 21 also voted to authorize the strike.
The unions met with the hospital on Tuesday, Oct. 29 to determine if Sacred Heart's offer is acceptable, or if a walk-out will take place. The parties did not come to an agreement, but a date for a strike has not yet been announced.
If a strike is called, WSNA will give the legally required ten days notice to Providence Sacred Heart prior to the strike,
According to WSNA Communications Director Ruth Schubert, the nurses are continuing to prepare to strike.
"Sacred Heart nurses do not want to go on strike but are prepared to do so if that’s what it takes to achieve a fair contract," Schubert said in a press release Tuesday evening.
Tuesday was the fourth mediation session the union has done with the hospital, according to Schubert.
"Sacred Heart Nurses rejected Providence's proposals to make substantial cuts to earned benefits even as its multi-state system is collecting record profits and giving extravagant raises to executives," she said. "Nurses are fighting for safe staffing and working conditions that will allow them to give the very best care to their families and patients."
"Sacred Heart nurses are standing up in the face of numerous illegal unfair labor practices on Providence's part, including interfering with workers' right to concerted activity and failing to bargain in good [faith]."
Providence Health Care Spokesperson Beth Hegde sent a statement to KREM regarding the strike:
“We are aware that UFCW and WSNA have voted for a strike authorization. At this time, the hospital has not received a 10-day strike notice, which is required if there were to be a strike. Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital are both open and here to care for our community. We are actively bargaining in good faith with WSNA and a federal mediator and we are hopeful that we can come to an agreement with both unions so we can avoid a strike.”
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF NURSES GO ON STRIKE?
More than 3,000 nurses and maintenance workers could walk out if a contract deal isn't reached. The year-long dispute has gone back and forth over benefits, time off and patient safety.
"We wouldn't do it if it wasn't that big of an issue that's how big of a priority for us that we have to take this step to vote and say we're ready if we have to but that's not the ultimate goal," said Stevie Lynne Krone, who is a nurse at Sacred Heart.
Lynne Krone is a nurse on the cardiology floor at Sacred Heart. But Lynne Krone said the hospital would likely bring fill-in staff from outside of the area.
"Then they would bring in traveler nurses to fill our spots during that time," Lynne Krone explained.
A UFCW 21 union spokesperson told KREM that some staff could also take on positions they don't normally fill. He said those who don't strike and the people called in could be forced to take on new roles they're not suited to do.
But Providence would not confirm that plan to KREM. Providence said it wouldn't offer specifics about how the hospital would operate when nurses are on strike.
"First and foremost, we are not in a strike situation. What you are hearing is simply untrue and intended to scare people. We are not going to engage in that type of conversation. Providence has cared for our community for more than 130 years and we will continue to do so. We continue to bargain in good faith to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. We are still at the bargaining table and have a session on Oct. 29."
They added that they are aware of the vote to strike by union members.
"While we are disappointed with this direction, we respect their right to do so. We are still actively bargaining in good faith and we're hopeful that we can come to an agreement."
The hospital said the average salary for nurses is $80,000 and they receive five to seven weeks paid time off, which they said is "market-leading compensation."