PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Medical professionals at three Providence locations nearly unanimously voted to authorize a strike, the Oregon Nurses Association announced Monday.
ONA says approximately 1,800 nurses and clinicians at Providence Portland, Providence Seaside and Providence Home Health and Hospice elected to authorize a strike to “protest Providence’s illegal unfair labor practices.”
“Enough is enough. The fact that an overwhelming number of nurses and clinicians voted yes shows that we know our worth. We’re tired of the lip service from Providence,” said Richard Botterill, RN and bargaining unit chair for Providence Portland. “We’ve told them for years that we need a wage and benefit package that recruits and retains experienced staff. Our nurses and clinicians have shown that we are prepared to act if they cannot work with us to achieve the contracts we deserve.”
Providence staff members have been engaged in contract negations since last Fall. ONA says their goals in negotiations are to prioritize permanent nurses over temporary ones and retain more qualified nurses and clinicians, as well as increase paid leave and compensation for workers.
“Above all, home health and hospice clinicians are fighting for working conditions that allow us to provide safe patient care,” said Sharon Barbosa, RN and bargaining unit chair for Providence Home Health and Hospice. “Providence increased our caseloads up to 70% in the middle of a global pandemic. Under these conditions, necessary care is delayed, patients suffer, and clinicians continue to flee Providence. Those of us who are left have no choice but to take this stand to protect our patients.”
Negotiations involving all three locations will continue this week. If a strike is called, ONA says they will give Providence a 10-day notice to allow them to stop admissions or transfer patients.
“Seaside patients deserve more than unsafe staffing levels and poorly functioning equipment. We need Providence to invest in us,” said Nate Weiler, RN and bargaining unit chair for Providence Seaside. “We are a critical access hospital, and the next closest hospital is a 40-minute drive, which means Seaside residents come here for their care. The cost to live here has grown exponentially and it’s past time we have pay equity with Portland nurses, especially if we want to retain and recruit nurses to care for our community.”
A Providence spokesperson gave KOIN 6 News the following statement:
“Providence Portland Medical Center has spent nine months negotiating in good faith with ONA over a new contract for our valued nurses. Since September and October 2022, Providence Seaside Hospital and Providence Home Health and Providence Hospice have done the same.
“We are disappointed by today’s strike authorization announcement by ONA. Strikes don’t solve contracts, they delay them, and they put the continuation of critical health care services for our communities at risk.
The reality is that at each bargaining table, Providence Portland, Providence Seaside and Providence Home Health and Providence Hospice have offered strong, market-competitive proposals designed to help recruit and retain skilled caregivers and address the needs of our nurses – and their families.
For example: Providence Portland’s latest proposal includes significant, double-digit percentage wage increases in year one alone, immediate pay bumps and multiple bonuses that result in well-earned pay raises for hardworking nurses. It also includes a leading paid time away program that offers eight weeks of 100%-paid time off in short-term disability benefits.
Combined with other contract enhancements and the strong existing benefits they currently receive, these proposals will continue to keep our nurses among the best-compensated in their communities.
As we’ve said before, we believe that talking solves more than walking. The Providence bargaining teams are eager to continue dialogue with ONA as they work tirelessly toward new contracts for their caregivers.”