Tricia Jenkins, a nurse at Swedish’s Cherry Hill campus, talks about patient-care concerns at an SEIU Healthcare 1199NW news conference in Seattle on Friday. (Joey Thompson / The Herald)

Tricia Jenkins, a nurse at Swedish’s Cherry Hill campus, talks about patient-care concerns at an SEIU Healthcare 1199NW news conference in Seattle on Friday. (Joey Thompson / The Herald)

Nurses, caregivers announce strike at all Swedish branches

The three-day strike starts Jan. 28, ends Jan. 31. Swedish will fly in thousands of fill-in workers.

SEATTLE — The strike is on. 

Nurses and caregivers from Swedish hospital submitted a strike notice Friday to the health care provider. Executives have 10 days to prepare for the walkout that will last three days and could involve nearly 8,000 employees, including some at the Edmonds hospital.

“We don’t feel like we’re providing the best care that we can to our patients and we need our community to support us in this fight for you and for our families,” said Tricia Jenkins, a nurse at the Cherry Hill campus.

The strike will begin at 7 a.m. Jan. 28 and end at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 31. Now that the union has filed its notice, Swedish has pulled its latest offer and will not bargain until the strike is over, so employees can prepare for the walkout, CEO Guy Hudson said.

“This is most unfortunate,” he said. “We put forth a great offer on the table that really was the leader in the state for making sure our caregivers were taken care of. I stand behind that offer 100%.”

Union negotiators have been calling for increased staffing, better wages and benefits protections.

According to the health care provider, the new deal involved an 11.25% raise over four years, new child and elder care benefits and protections for paid time off.

“This is one of the best proposals we’ve ever offered our caregivers,” said Margo Bykonen, Swedish’s chief nursing officer. “I felt at the bargaining table we listened to those concerns. We actually approached the concerns with proposals in our package.”

Union members say the offer doesn’t go far enough and Swedish must commit to boost staffing.

“We’re not going to sound these alarms for nothing,” Jenkins said. “It’s my job to take care of people, and I’m telling you right now that I can’t take of you to my highest capability in the conditions in which we’re working.”

As Swedish prepares for the walkout, thousands of contract nurses and caregivers from across the country will be flown into the state to fill in, Hudson said.

Hospitals will stay open and emergency room services will not be affected, a Swedish spokesperson said. But non-urgent procedures could be delayed.

“In general, we will be able to serve our patients and provide the same high-quality care we always have,” said Kevin Brooks, chief operating officer at the First Hill hospital.

The decision to strike comes after months of negotiations, as well as a previous strike threat at the end of December that spurred new contracts for 5,000 employees at other Providence affiliates across the state.

Richard Keefe, a nurse at Ballard Swedish, said the other unions negotiating for contracts were stuck on one or two issues, “whereas this bargaining unit has found ourselves stuck on many different fronts with Swedish.”

Nearby, better staffing levels, wage increases, contract ratification bonuses and more could be in store for workers at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Professional and technical employees represented by UFCW 21 will vote Tuesday on a new union contract with the health-care provider after months of negotiations and a strike threat ended earlier this month in a tentative agreement.

“We started out as nine different negotiations across our one union,” a UFCW 21 news release said. “For months we got essentially nowhere and we were suffering from an increasing number of unfair labor practices. Then we started to turn that around.”

UFCW 21 represents some 400 professionals and 250 technical workers at the hospital. The deal also includes protections for paid time off and health care benefits.

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

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