3-day strike by Providence hospice workers is over

But contract negotiations continue. The union says it’s losing staff to places that offer higher pay.

EVERETT — The three-day strike by unionized employees of Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County is over, but there’s no quick end in sight to the contract negotiations.

The next bargaining session, which will include a federal mediator, is scheduled for Dec. 15.

Hospice and home care staff voted to join SEIU Healthcare 1199 Northwest on April 6, 2016. Negotiations have been under way since Sept. 5, 2016.

In a statement, Mary Beth Walker, a spokeswoman for Providence Senior and Community Services, said that there was no disruption to patient care.

When asked how many patients were enrolled in hospice and home care services during the strike, Walker said she was unable to provide that information.

Walker said patients were cared for under a plan for contingency staffing. Some caregivers represented by SEIU chose to work and meet patient needs, she said.

The hospice and home care organization has 225 union employees. They include six chaplains, 28 home health aides, 20 physical therapists, 100 registered nurses and 14 licensed practical nurses.

Union members say that they’re losing employees to other organizations that offer higher wages.

The pay for hospice and home care nurses ranges from $29 to $51 an hour, according to information provided by the union. Pay for social workers ranges from nearly $29 to nearly $38 an hour.

The union said other area organizations offer higher pay. Experienced registered nurses, for example, can make $52 to $58 an hour, according to figures provided by the union.

Providence characterized the strike as disappointing, saying it would prefer to get back to bargaining. “We share the same goal of providing high-quality, compassionate care,” Walker said in a statement.

John Shannon, a social worker and member of the union’s bargaining team, said the organization has had problems with turnover. “A significant number of people have left with lots of experience and educational background because they didn’t feel supported by the organization,” he said.

Shannon said he hoped the strike would “get Providence’s attention” as well as generate community support.

The strike was heartbreaking for the staff, he said, “but we didn’t feel like there was any other way to call attention to the real serious problems there.”

Sharon Salyer; 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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