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Providence strike called off, bargaining ongoing

EVERETT — A tentative agreement has been reached between health care workers and management at Providence and Swedish, after a post-holiday announcement of an “imminent strike” by unions that had banded together statewide.
The unions and management agreed to intensive talks after the holiday, with the goal of avoiding a strike.
The announcement Jan. 10 stemmed from negotiations occurring at Providence at Sacred Heart in Spokane. The three unions involved in negotiations were SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, UFCW 21 and the state’s nurses association, in a group that represents more than 13,000 workers statewide including employees at Providence and Swedish sites around Snohomish County.
Health care workers are pushing for more manageable workloads and better pay. The unions say workload is directly tied to safety and compassionate care, and pay is tied to employee retention. Seasoned employees are more connected to specific health issues, workers say, and are able to better guide new hires.
If a strike had occurred, it would put medical management into a 10-day scramble to implement contingency plans, which would include hiring temporary workers to care for patients.
Workers say a better contract will help prevent turnover, which they say contributes to care. Specializations in diabetes, dementia and other ailments come with symptoms and behaviors that health care workers observe, overtime.
Providence management has said hiring has resumed in a tight market, and that pay is already competitive.
Both sides agree on the need to focus on the top goal of quality care.
Agreements will be recommended to union members and the ratification votes will be scheduled soon. Terms of the agreement were not yet disclosed.
“It is our practice not to comment on the specific terms of the agreement until ratification has occurred,” said Casey Calmusa, Providence’s spokesman.



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