Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. (Joe Mabel / Wikimedia)

Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. (Joe Mabel / Wikimedia)

Strike announcement called off; Providence talks continue

After overnight negotiations, workers and management agreed to return to the bargaining table.

Update 7:05 a.m. Friday: The announcement of a possible strike has been postponed, and the union issued this statement: “After exploratory conversations overnight, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW has postponed its strike notice and agreed to expedited bargaining after Swedish-Providence management made commitments to make progress in bargaining by resolving patient safety and recruitment and retention concerns.”

Earlier story:

SEATTLE — Nurses and caregivers at Providence-affiliated hospitals will announce Friday a plan to strike, citing stalling contract negotiations, according to a news release.

In total, 13,000 Providence- affiliated employees statewide, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, Swedish Edmonds and Hospice and Homecare of Snohomish County, could take part in a strike.

“After months, or in some cases years, of negotiations, caregivers at Providence facilities across Washington state say contract proposals put forth by Providence still do not address workers’ serious patient concerns or fix ongoing unfair labor practices,” a news release said.

The decision comes days after Swedish laid out a new slate of proposed wage and benefit increases for 8,000 of its employees.

Negotiators from Swedish and the nurses and caregivers union SEIU Healthcare 1199NW met Monday when Swedish offered 5.5% raises by July, a $750 contract ratification bonus for employees, a joint committee with the union to address staffing concerns and other benefits. But union leaders say little progress was made and a strike is still looming.

“This new package reflects our sincere effort to address those concerns, and provides our caregivers with wages and benefits that ensure Swedish remains a leader among health care employers in this market,” said a Monday statement from Swedish.

Members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, the union that represents 8,000 Swedish employees, say the offer falls short.

“On top of refusing to make a meaningful commitment, Providence has proposed to tie our wages to patient metrics that we can’t achieve without appropriate staffing,” said Whittney Powers, a registered nurse at Swedish’s Edmonds campus, in a news release. “We feel set up to fail financially and professionally, and we won’t tolerate it.”

At Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, workers with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 authorized a strike in October. Employees are asking for higher wages, better staffing and improved sick leave.

Nearby at Providence Hospice and Homecare of Snohomish County, employees authorized a strike in December, citing high caseloads and low wages.

In November, Swedish nurses and caregivers joined in and authorized a strike.

On Thursday, Swedish and union leaders met with federal mediators to see if the two parties could make progress.

The negotiations have been ongoing since April.

Union members say Swedish and parent company Providence are prioritizing executive pay over serving patients. The staffing committee doesn’t match the urgency of declining quality of care, union spokesperson Amy Clark said.

There are more than 900 vacancies across all Swedish campuses. Swedish’s new plan includes a series of discussions in January at each hospital focused on recruiting and retaining employees.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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