Nurses and administrators at Oregon Health & Science University announced on Tuesday that they have reached a tentative agreement that will avoid a potential strike.
The three-year contract includes pay raises, new safety measures and the right to reopen the contract to negotiate over the impacts of a proposed merger with the Legacy Health system.
“This new contract will ensure we have the tools, the workplace safety and the staffing support necessary to deliver the high-quality care our patients deserve,” said Duncan Zevetski, a registered nurse and vice president of the Oregon Nurses Association bargaining unit at OHSU.
Hospital administrators called Tuesday’s announced deal " a huge accomplishment” in a joint statement made with the union.
“This contract stands as the cornerstone for fostering a robust, healthy, and secure nursing workforce, enabling us to deliver top-notch care to our patients and the communities of the Pacific Northwest,” the joint statement reads.
If approved, nurses would see an average base wage increase of 37%, according to the union.
High profile issues at play in the contract have included overcrowding and staffing shortages in OHSU’s emergency department, concerns about patients and their family members assaulting staff, and how OHSU would comply with the state’s new nurse staffing law, which sets specific nurse-to-patient ratios.
OHSU said it would share details of the new contract on Tuesday.
Safety featured heavily in the proposed contract. The two sides tentatively agreed to paid training in de-escalation techniques and crisis intervention, round-the-clock staffing at OHSU’s metal detectors, and “urgent” changes to lockdown procedures, according to a statement from the union.
The potential merger of Legacy Health and OHSU also factored into the talks. In August, the health systems announced they had signed a non-binding letter of intent that would put Legacy’s hospitals and facilities under management of OHSU. Nurses said they were caught off guard by the plans in the middle of their contract negotiations.
If the merger goes forward and wins approval from regulators, the combined health care system will be the largest in Oregon. In Tuesday’s announcement, nurses said they had secured an agreement with OHSU to bargain over potential impacts of the merger in the future.
Union members will vote to ratify the proposal between Oct. 1 and Oct. 5. If ratified, the contract would last through June 30, 2026.