Oregon Nurses Association announces new tentative agreement for Providence St. Vincent nurses to avoid strike

Oregon nurses last May [Photo by James Partridge]

The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) announced Thursday afternoon a new tentative agreement for 1,600 nurses at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center outside of Portland, Oregon. The deal was announced after the ONA announced it had completed a “historic” 24-hour negotiating session with Providence leaders on Monday, claiming a “NURSE VICTORY”.

In reality, the ONA is seeking to force a capitulation and avoid a strike scheduled for July 11. He was forced to call a strike last week after nurses rejected the previous contract by a margin of more than 4 to 1, but has now called off his plans for the strike and instead announced that he “plans site meetings to share the details of the agreements in principle reached. The date of the vote on the new contract has not yet been announced.

As of this writing, the actual contract has yet to be sent to union members. All that’s been featured are the pared down ‘nurses’ victories’ posted on ONA’s Facebook page, which provide scant detail on nurses’ demands, including salaries, staffing ratios and benefits. . The contract itself will last only two years. The salary increase during this period will only be “up to” 16.5%, language which suggests that such an increase is not guaranteed and which is at best still below inflation, currently. at 8.6%.

There will also be no discussion of reducing healthcare costs for nurses until 2024, which will be done by a joint ‘committee’. And while Providence will be “required to staff the standard on each shift”, management itself has the authority to “establish patient-based nurse staffing standards”, which is in made an overture for the hospital to reduce the number of nurses on each shift. gap.

The only concrete takeaway from the highlights released so far is that there will be retroactive compensation, which was not included in the previous TA after being part of the contracts for decades.

On the other hand, the complete list of amendments to the contract remains to be seen. One such endorsement, which had the contract signing bonus removed, was admitted on social media by ONA Vice President Jessica Lobell, who noted in response to a question that “no, the premium is no longer part of the TA. It’s just retro.

Lobell also signaled that there would be no other major gains for nurses, while simultaneously trying to reduce the need for a strike, stating that “I can’t stress enough that we won’t get not everything we want in this round, no matter if we go on strike. or not.” There is no doubt that these points will be underlined during the next “site meetings” of the ONA.

Such tactics are commonplace among unions. A contract is made behind closed doors between union bureaucrats and company executives, “highlights” are presented and used to encourage members to vote yes, and workers are given little time to study the full text of the agreement before being forced to vote on it. Just over two months ago, the United Auto Workers forced a sold-out contract on Detroit Diesel by calling for a quick vote, releasing the deal just days before ratification.

Nor is there a unified contract between Providence hospitals, four of which are still being negotiated. Only three of them, St. Vincent, Willamette Falls and Milwaukie Hospitals, were represented at Monday’s meeting and contracts were made for only two, St. Vincent and Willamette Falls. There has been only “substantial progress” on a contract for nurses in Milwaukie. And as the nurses pointed out on the union’s Facebook page, there was no representation from Providence Hood River, which has been in negotiations since February.

The contracts in St. Vincent and Willamette Falls are also not the same, according to what has been published. While nurses in St. Vincent will get a 16.5% pay increase, those in Willamette Falls will only see an average 12% pay increase despite demands for “pay equity” at hospitals. There are bonuses for resource and resuscitation nurses in Willamette Falls, but no increase in paid time off, while nurses in St. Vincent are promised an additional 20 hours of time off each year and, as noted above, lost the bonus in the previous tentative agreement. .

There is also no clear contract length yet for nurses in Willamette Falls and differences in contract lengths have long been a tactic of Providence and unions to divide nurses at different hospitals. As the ONA itself admitted, the Hood River nurses were not represented at Monday’s meeting because their contract is on a different “schedule.”

To the extent that there are gains in these contracts, it is through the actions of the nurses themselves, not the union. The initial contract presented to the nurses a month ago gave in to all the demands put forward by Providence leaders: minimal increases in PTO and wages, no increase in health care, no addressing of ratios staffing and no retroactive compensation. At the time, the ONA enthusiastically supported the contract and the “unprecedented achievements” between it and management.

Nurses immediately recognized the sellout contract for what it was and began campaigning against the pro-corporate deal.

The health workers’ campaign for better wages and working conditions must be strengthened. Nurses in St. Vincent and Willamette Falls should demand a single contract among themselves and for their colleagues in Milwaukie, Hood River and the entire Providence hospital network.

Above all, the fight must not be left in the hands of the ONA, which has proven that it is in bed with health executives and the Democratic Party. He is not seeking to win grievances in the struggle, but to suppress opposition to further betrayals on behalf of Providence, a “non-profit organization” which earned $238 million in 2021 and received 1.3 billion in CARES Act funding.

A committee of Providence’s rank and file nurses should be formed to draw up a list of comprehensive demands for the workers, including wage increases above inflation and cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) indexed to labor. ‘increased living expenses, as well as a truly safe workforce and a sharp increase in paid vacation. Nurses must be prepared to fight for these demands, including establishing a strike schedule and plan independent of bureaucratic rules established by the ONA.

Nurses seeking to pursue such a struggle should contact the World Socialist Web Site Health Care Newsletter, which will provide all possible support for such a struggle.

Andrew B. Reiter