OFNHP signs first contract at St. Charles Hospital in Bend

By Don McIntosh

Two weeks after ending their nine-day strike—and more than 18 months after they voted to unionize—a group of 143 medical technologists at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend ratified their first-ever union contract. It reduces pay disparities and locks in current work rules and benefits so the hospital can’t change them without workers’ say-so. But it also leaves a lot of things to be determined by management, including future wage increases.

Announcing the ratification, Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP) said the contract marks “a new stage of labor peace and partnership with the hospital.” But in the hospital’s announcement of the ratification, St. Charles goes to pains to imply that workers’ decision to unionize and strike was futile, saying workers ended up agreeing to the same wage proposal the hospital made before the strike and that the wage package was no better than what non-union employees receive.

OFNHP spokesperson Shane Burley said the hospital raised wages for all workers, union and non-union, as a result of the strike.

Most union contracts either set a flat wage for each job or establish a “step scale” that pays a set amount for each classification depending on how long a worker has been there. The St. Charles contract instead establishes a set of “ranges” for each of 22 separate job classifications, and specifies that employees with 5, 10, and 15 years of experience earn at least the 25th, 50th, 75th percentile of the range, while those with 20 or more years earn the top of the range. New hires are placed in the range based on skill and experience, at the hospital’s discretion, but not more than existing workers with equivalent skill and experience.  Actual wage rates themselves are in an appendix that’s not part of the collective bargaining agreement, “to protect caregiver privacy.”

The contract says in the fourth quarter of each year the hospital will review wages for each classification and determine whether “market adjustments” are needed.

St. Charles also bragged that it “held firm” to its insistence that it remain an “open shop,” where union dues are voluntary. [New hires, however, have to pay either dues or “fair share” fees covering the costs of representation.]

The contract runs April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2024, and the union committed not to strike or picket during that time.


CONTRACT DETAILS

  • Cost of living raises Determined by management, at least 0.5% annually.
  • Shift differentials $1.36/hr swing, $2.93/hr graveyard, $1.80/hr weekends
  • Standby pay $5/hr
  • Discipline No discipline without just cause, the right to union representation in disciplinary meetings
  • Health insurance Same benefits and premium share as non-union workers
  • Retirement Match contributions to a 403(b) defined contribution retirement account, up to 6% of payroll

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