The sign at Swedish Edmonds. (Herald file)

The sign at Swedish Edmonds. (Herald file)

New deal gives Swedish nurses, health care workers a big boost in pay

The health care provider and SEIU 1199NW agreed to raises totaling at least 21.5% in the next three years

SEATTLE — Nurses and health care workers at Providence Swedish have overwhelmingly ratified a new contract that boosts hourly wages by at least 21.5% in the next three years.

The deal also increases incentive pay, adds bonuses for service longevity, hikes premium and differential pay and contains other provisions aimed at alleviating staffing shortages that are widespread in hospitals across the region and nation.

It covers 7,200 nurses and professional, tech and service workers who are employed by Swedish Medical Center and Swedish Edmonds and covered by collective bargaining agreements. Swedish Health Services includes hospitals in Seattle, Ballard, Edmonds and Issaquah and ambulatory care centers in Mill Creek and Redmond. Nearly 2,000 work at the Edmonds and Mill Creek locations combined.

“This new economic package will help us pay the bills, but will also allow Providence Swedish to recruit and retain new co-workers and alleviate the staffing crisis we’re facing. An investment in our workforce is an investment in patient care,” said David Antwi, nursing assistant in the Behavioral Health Unit at Swedish Ballard, in a statement. He is a member of the SEIU Healthcare 1199NW bargaining team.

Altogether, the agreements provide an additional $125 million in compensation, according to a Swedish release.

“I am proud that we are significantly improving wages to support our caregivers and aid our retention and recruitment in a highly competitive market,” said Dr. R. Guy Hudson, CEO of Swedish Health Services.

Nurses went on strike for three days in 2020 before securing a contract that was due to expire next year.

But this summer, Providence Swedish management approached union leaders about reopening the agreement to redo wage and economic provisions, according to a union spokesperson. The newly ratified deal runs through June 2025.

”With staffing levels being as dangerous as they are, both our union and Providence Swedish knew that equitable wage increases and incentives couldn’t wait until the next contract,” said Jane Hopkins, RN, president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW which represents the workers.

Under the deal, worker hourly pay will rise by 21.5% or $6.50 an hour, whichever is higher, over the next 24 months. It will come in the following increments: 4% or $1.25 this next pay period; 9.5% or $3 next April 2023; 4% or $1.25 in October 2023 and 4% or $1 October 2024.

At the end of the contract, the average hourly worker pay will rise from just under $40 to just over $52, according to the union.

“By bargaining across-the-board raises that are either a percentage or dollar amount, whichever is higher, we are able to bring everyone up,” Kenia Escobar, spokesperson for the union, said in an email.

This contract does not contain any specific provisions related to patient loads and staffing levels, issues that Democratic state lawmakers pursued last session at the behest of health care worker unions.

“We continue to work on our staffing committees with Swedish to advocate for safe staffing levels and hope that the competitive economic package we just negotiated will help fill vacancies across the system,” Escobar said.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

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