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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Nurses, Providence unable to agree on new contract at 1st bargaining session since strike authorization

Amber Walker, center left protests for her mother Yvonne Walker, center right in Spokane on Thursday, May 9, 2019. Yvonne has been an RN for Sacred Heart for 19 years and works in the adult psychiatric unit. The nurses were protesting for better contracts. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Unionized nurses at Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence officials did not reach an agreement on a new contract duringtheir 15th bargaining session on Tuesday – and their first session since the nurses voted to authorize a strike last week.

Both parties are working to schedule another mediation session, though no date had been set as of Wednesday morning.

“Sacred Heart nurses do not want to go on strike but are prepared to do so if that’s what it takes to achieve a fair contract,” a statement from the Washington State Nurses Association, which is representing the nurses, said.

Sacred Heart nurses voted overwhelmingly to strike last week, and nurses will continue with strike preparation.

Late Wednesday, the vast majority of more than 900 nurses represented by WSNA at the Tri-Cities’ Kadlec Medical Center, which is a Providence affiliate, voted to authorize a strike. Similar to developments at Sacred Heart, nurses and Providence officials are working to set another negotiation date.

“The hospital bargaining team presented a strong package proposal including market-leading wages plus a contract ratification bonus, updates to the sick time plan and 5-7 weeks per year of Paid Time Off,” a statement from Providence said. “We have requested additional bargaining dates from WSNA, and look forward to coming to an agreement with our nurses so we can continue our Mission to serve our community together.”

A WSNA cabinet has to approve any strike, and the union would give the hospital a 10-day notice. Contract negotiations have gone on for nearly a year, due to disagreements about proposed changes to sick leave and time-off policies.

Separate from the nurses’ contract negotiations, nearly 3,000 service and maintenance workers at Sacred Heart, represented by UFCW 21, also voted to authorize a strike last week.

Several other bargaining units represented by the union at other facilities around the state followed suit, including 300 members at Holy Family Hospital. UFCW 21 members at Providence facilities in Walla Walla, Everett and Centralia also voted to authorize a strike. More than 1,200 UFCW 21 members at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia voted Wednesday.

When all UFCW 21 bargaining units have finished voting, the union hopes that Providence officials will be willing to negotiate. Bargaining teams and the union will then determine whether or not to call a strike.

This story has been updated to show the strike vote results from nurses at Kadlec Medical Center.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.