Providence Everett nurses picket over contract
Michael Whitney photo
More than 250 people picketed outside Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on May 5.
EVERETT — Nurse shortages at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett are in part because other area hospitals have better pay rates, frontline nurses told the Tribune.
The union contract is still being negotiated, and things appear to be jammed. While negotiations have been going for months, they are just now starting to exchange proposals on economic items, a hospital spokesman said. The nurses’ three-year contract expired Oct. 31.
An organized pool of picketers circulated on the sidewalks for two hours outside the county’s largest hospital Wednesday, May 5 as well as outside Providence’s Pacific Avenue campus.
One disagreement is over employment benefits: The union says the hospital is proposing to heavily alter the sick pay and paid-time-off systems. Other issues are wages and a proposal to have staff pay for parking at the hospital.
The change to sick pay is inferior to what nurses currently have, said nurses’ union representative Juan Stout, who is a Providence nurse himself.
“We’re seeking a competitive pay scale commensurate with our hospitals in the region,” Stout said. He indicated the nurse pay rates are below comparable hospitals in Western Washington, including not just Seattle but in Skagit County.
Stout said the hospital is offering a
1 percent cost-of-living-adjustment pay increase.
A Providence spokesman didn’t get into specifics, but said “PRMCE is proposing both an across-the-board increase, as well as a significant financial
enhancement to the RN’s overall wage scale,” Providence spokesman Casey Calamusa said.
Stout said short staffing among nurses happens “just about every night.”
Short staffing has been a problem before COVID hit last year, said a charge nurse in orthopedics who didn’t want to be named. Until retention is solved, these problems will continue, said her colleague.
Providence began offering incentives to new hires, which has the old guard feeling disrespected, Stout said.
Meanwhile, systemic problems are causing patients to be parked in hallways waiting for a free room. Nurses are seeing six or seven patients on their rounds versus monitoring the usual four or five, which a few described as an overload issue.
Changing the sick pay and paid time off system seems to especially bother nurses. It was touted as a special benefit.
On the picket line, nurses said they’re upset the changes would also wipe already-accrued banked hours with no method to cash-out. Some banked their hours prudently in case they needed them for a serious, long issue, one nurse explained.
A Providence spokesman said paid-time-off is not being eliminated, and there will be a Providence system in place.
“PRMCE is not proposing to eliminate PTO for RNs. Rather a second bank of accrued time would be frozen for continued use, and replaced with a Providence-sponsored short-term disability benefit that would provide 100% wage replacement for each new qualifying illness or injury an RN may have — no matter their length of tenure with Providence,” Calamusa said.
The sick pay system in question is called the Extended Illness Bank. Currently, this benefit can be tapped into immediately on the first day absent, workers said.
Nurses picketed previously in 2018 the last time the contract was up for renewal. The big topic then was that nurses felt they couldn’t take breaks during their shifts because of short staffing.
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