Nurses approve a new contract in first of three Providence hospital votes

By COLIN STAUB

A bargaining unit of 233 nurses at Providence Willamette Falls in Oregon City voted nearly unanimously to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, in ballots counted July 11. 

The agreement between the hospital and Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) provides for 3% across-the-board increases each year, plus a market adjustment of between $2 and $2.75 per hour, plus longevity bonuses of $1,750 at 30 and 40 years of service. The raises are retroactive to Jan. 2, 2022. 

The new contract also brings language from Oregon’s hospital nurse staffing law into the union contract. That law requires each hospital to form a committee of workers and management to craft staffing plans for each facility. If the hospital fails to do that, the law’s remedy is that workers can make a complaint to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), which will investigate. But OHA has never fined a hospital for not following a staffing plan, according to the union. The new contract adds the staffing committee requirement to the union contract, so that it becomes a grievable contract violation if the hospital doesn’t undertake “best efforts” to meet its staffing plan.

“Importing the law into the contract gives nurses on the floor the ability to make those changes in real time, or much more close to it,” said ONA spokesperson Kevin Mealy.

St. Vincent and Milwaukie are next

Nurses at the Providence St. Vincent and Providence Milwaukie hospitals are also voting on tentative agreements.

At St. Vincent, it’s the second proposal to come for a vote before the hospital’s 1,600 nurses. Workers rejected the first agreement by 80% in June. Providence improved on that offer by adding retroactive pay. What was previously a 10% raise upon ratification became a 10 to 12.5% raise retroactive to Jan. 2, 2022 (depending on which step in the pay scale a worker is on). In January 2023, nurses would get an additional 4% raise, at which point entry level nurses would be making 16.1% more than they are right now.

At Providence Milwaukie hospital, where ONA represents 239 workers, the two-year contract brings wage parity with St. Vincent, “cost containment” of the medical plan, across-the-board increases to most shift differentials, and the same staffing language that’s included in the other contracts. It also includes a $1,750 longevity bonus for nurses who’ve worked there at least 26 years.

The St. Vincent vote will conclude July 15, and the Providence Milwaukie vote starts July 20 and ends July 25.

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