February 6, 1998 in City

Sacred Heart Nurses Reject New Offer Surveys Being Analyzed To Determine Next Step In Contract Dispute

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Nurses at Sacred Heart Medical Center overwhelmingly rejected the final contract offer from hospital management this week.

It still isn’t clear whether the nurses will strike, picket or go back to the bargaining table.

The nurses filled out surveys, which haven’t been analyzed yet. The nurses’ bargaining unit will meet Monday to come up with a plan.

“We hope we will be going back to the bargaining table and that the hospital will see this (offer) is not OK with the nurses and they need to do something different,” said nurse Barbara Heimbigner, co-chairwoman of the Sacred Heart unit of the Washington State Nurses Association, the union that represents the nurses.

The nurses could decide to informationally picket, to strike, to go back to the bargaining table or any combination. They also might have a community rally.

A hospital spokeswoman said late Thursday that the nurses hadn’t yet notified the hospital of their intentions.

The bargaining unit had nine meetings Wednesday and Thursday at the Carpenters Local on West Mission for the more than 1,100 registered nurses who work at the hospital. At the meetings, nurses asked questions about strikes, pickets and the sticking issues.

Heimbigner says the nurses’ major concerns revolve around patient care. They include:

Staffing issues, such as the ratio of registered nurses to unlicensed aides on each shift.

Mandatory call, where the hospital can require nurses to be available to work during a specific time.

Rest between shifts for nurses, and when overtime kicks in.

The nurses and hospital management also still have different proposals on wages, insurance and whether the union should have mandatory membership, Heimbigner said.

Neither the hospital management nor the nurses seem willing to compromise on staffing issues or mandatory call, Heimbigner said.

“It’s kind of like a collision course,” she added.

If the nurses decide to have informational pickets, they would work their regular shifts and picket during off-hours.

If the nurses decide to strike, they would stop working regular shifts and would choose whether to return to the hospital for emergencies.

Either way, the nurses must give the hospital 10 days notice.

“Patient care issues are still the most important thing we’re trying to achieve through our contract,” Heimbigner said. “We’re willing to work with management to get something we feel is workable.”

, DataTimes

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