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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Strike averted: Deaconess and Valley hospital support staff reach tentative agreement in contract negotiations

MultiCare Deaconess Hospital in Spokane.   (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

On the verge of a labor strike, service and tech workers at Deaconess and Valley hospitals reached a tentative agreement with hospital system MultiCare late last week.

Affiliated with SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, the union is made up of approximately 1,400 workers between the two hospitals. These primarily include technical workers. Nurses at Valley Hospital are also included in the union.

Negotiations for a new contract began in August and ended after 20 bargaining sessions at approximately 11 p.m. Friday when a tentative agreement was reached.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that reflects the high value we place on our employees and allows us to continue to provide exceptional care for our patients,” MultiCare spokesperson Kevin Maloney said in a statement.

SEIU 1199NW spokesperson Kenia Escobar declined to share details of the tentative agreement until union members approve the deal in a ratification vote later this week.

“We let the members see any tentative agreement first,” she said.

Ratification will take place from Monday through Wednesday evening. Should the deal be approved, details of the new contract will be announced Thursday.

President of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and registered nurse Jane Hopkins said in a statement the agreement is a “testament to the power of collective action” and a “direct result of these workers’ unity and resilience.”

“I’m proud of the bargaining team’s deep commitment to ensuring quality healthcare for families in Spokane and Spokane Valley. With these new contract provisions, the healthcare workers of Deaconess and Valley Hospitals have secured vital improvements to ongoing recruitment and retention issues and have led the creation of a framework for sustainable solutions to MultiCare’s staffing challenges in the area. This agreement is transformative for workers and lifesaving for patients,” she said in the statement.

A day before the tentative agreement was reached, the union gave MultiCare a 10-day notice to begin striking on April 7.

At issue in the negotiations was pay, which the union argued was not competitive for health care workers in the region.

Deaconess Certified Nursing Assistant and bargaining team negotiator Shawn Crawford said earlier this month that the union demanded a 6% cost-of-living wage increase across the board and further increases for each different type of employee represented. Depending upon how much a given job’s salary is below market rate, these demands could be as much as 11%.