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Nurses declare victory in negotiations with Providence in Portland, Seaside

By Jake Thomas (The Lund Report)
Aug. 11, 2023 10:07 p.m.

Editor’s note: This story was first published by The Lund Report, an independent nonprofit news site covering health in Oregon.

It hasn’t been formally announced, but the Oregon Nurses Association is declaring victory in negotiations with Providence Health over contracts at hospitals in Portland and Seaside.

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But home health care nurses haven’t seen a breakthrough.

The deal at the two hospitals came after an unusual Thursday bargaining session involving all three workplaces. It ended months of tension punctuated by a limited five-day strike.

In a notice for its members, the union’s negotiators said the health system, Oregon’s largest, had  agreed to substantial increases in pay and time off.

FILE: Nurses participate in a five-day strike in front of Providence Portland Medical Center, near Northeast Glisan Street and Northeast 47th Avenue, June 19, 2023.

FILE: Nurses participate in a five-day strike in front of Providence Portland Medical Center, near Northeast Glisan Street and Northeast 47th Avenue, June 19, 2023.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

The union notice called the deal a “historic wage increase” and cited other concessions.

“This is the best contract we’ve achieved in several decades,” reads the notice to Portland Providence nurses.

The statement was posted online and signed by eight members of the bargaining team.

“Providence is grateful for the hard work and commitment of both bargaining teams,” a spokesperson for the health system said in an email. “We look forward to collaborating as we continue to serve our patients with compassionate, high-quality care.”

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The two-year contract, which still needs to be approved by rank-and-file nurses, marks a breakthrough after months of, at times, bitter contract negotiations between the increasingly emboldened union and the large health system.

The tentative agreement includes wage increases that put the highest-level at Providence Portland Medical Center wage scale at over $70-per-hour while giving a raise as high as $3-per-hour for the most experienced registered nurses.

Nurses covered by the agreement will see raises between 17% and 27% over the next two years, which the union called the highest wage hike in the Portland metro area.

Also included in the tentative agreement are another 40 hours of paid leave, increases in differentials, a commitment that the hospital will comply with Oregon new staffing law and others.

The negotiating team for nurses at Providence Seaside wrote in their update to members that they “didn’t win on all our aims” but the tentative agreement still contained wins on pay and time off.

Providence Seaside nurses working in Hospital & Home Health  will see an average raise of 14% in the contract’s first year, according to the statement signed by seven members of the negotiating team. Clinic nurses will see an average raise of 20% in the contract’s first year. The tentative agreement also includes another 20 hours of paid time off for each year and a settlement of a hospital-wide grievance for missing time off accruals.

“This victory would not have occurred without engaging in our historic strike,” negotiators wrote in the update. “Despite Providence’s threat to make their economic offer worse if we struck, our final tentative agreement is considerably richer than what was offered before the strike.”

Both the union and Providence dug in on their positions leading up to the five-day strike. A Providence executive said in a leaked email that the health system’s last offer was contingent on the union approving a new contract by June 30 without striking.

Judging by the union’s announcement, that position did not hold.

However, negotiators for Providence Home Health & Hospice wrote in their update that they left bargaining at around 5 a.m. without a tentative agreement. They wrote that they were “profoundly disappointed” that Providence management " could not offer us a deal today that we were confident our members would ratify.”

“We worked hard and made important progress on key issues, but we remain apart on wages and productivity,” they wrote.

You can reach Jake Thomas at jake@thelundreport.org or via Twitter @jakethomas2009.

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