SEATTLE — For the first time in nearly a month, Swedish Medical Center and the union representing nearly 8,000 of its employees are back bargaining for a new contract, but they’re not meeting face-to-face — yet.
Per the recommendation of a federal mediator, both sides swapped proposals for a new deal through the intermediary because emotions are still high following the three-day strike in late January across all Swedish campuses, including Edmonds.
“We remain committed to bargaining in good faith with (the union) to reach an agreement that reflects our sincere efforts to address staffing concerns and provide our caregivers with wages and benefits that ensure Swedish remains a leader among health care employers in this market,” the health care provider said in a news release Tuesday.
Swedish and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW have been bargaining for a new deal since April. The union is calling for increased staffing and wages. Members say the standard of care started to decline when Providence Health & Services acquired Swedish in 2012.
“Safe patient care is what we’re there for,” said Randi Fridner, a member of the union bargaining team and registered nurse at Swedish Edmonds. “I’m just really disappointed and hope they have heard us with the strike, and will want to come and really put down a solid offer. That’s what Swedish, the brand name Swedish, is known for. If they want to keep the brand, they have to keep the quality of care that patients are expecting.”
Monday’s negotiations marked the first talks since mid-January. When the union filed a strike notice on Jan. 17, Swedish pulled its offer.
The health care provider’s latest proposal includes filling 200 full-time positions and boosting wages 11.25% over four years. The union is asking for 22.75% raises over the same time span.
The union says Swedish’s new deal doesn’t go far enough in addressing staffing and reintroduces takeaways from previous offers, including cuts to paid time off and medical benefits. Additionally, the health care provider is no longer offering raises retroactive to the end of the last contract and a ban on subcontracting, said Amy Clark, a union spokesperson.
Swedish’s proposal doesn’t make cuts to paid time off or benefits and includes protections against subcontracting, spokesperson Tiffany Moss said in an email.
The health care provider’s offer expands medical benefits, Moss said.
During the three-day strike, Swedish delayed non-urgent procedures and closed emergency rooms in Ballard and Redmond.
The health care provider flew in and housed thousands of replacement employees at a cost originally estimated at at least $11 million. Swedish is not disclosing the final bill, spokesperson Tiffany Moss said.
The union threatened to strike before the January walkout. SEIU Healthcare 1199NW members, along with 5,000 other Providence-affiliated employees across the state, nearly issued strike notices in December. Before they did, an all-nighter with a federal mediator kept both sides bargaining for another week.
On Wednesday, both sides said they’re interested in meeting again, but no date has been set.
This article has been updated to include a clarification on Swedish’s proposal from spokesperson Tiffany Moss.