Springfield home health nurses ready to strike over wage disparity with hospital nurses

By MALLORY GRUBEN

About 90 home health and hospice nurses in Springfield say they’re ready to strike if PeaceHealth Sacred Heart executives refuse to pay them the same as their counterparts inside the hospital.

At a press conference Dec. 29, Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) announced that a majority of the nurses said “yes” in a strike vote. ONA represents the home care nurses, as well as about 1,500 hospital nurses at Sacred Heart.

Both groups started contract negotiations in December 2022. Usually they bargain wages together, so all nurses are paid the same. But for this round of negotiations, PeaceHealth demanded that bargaining happen separately — and proposed lower wages for the home care nurses.

Hospital nurses reached an agreement in August that raised wages 8% to $47.74 an hour for a nurse with three years experience. PeaceHealth’s latest offer to the home health nurses is a 4.75% raise to $43.31 an hour for a three-year nurse.

Although where they work is different, home care nurses do the same jobs as hospital nurses, said Jo Turner, a hospice nurse and chair of the union’s home health and hospice bargaining team. And home care work can be more challenging work because they’re usually the only nurse on site, sometimes without cell reception.

“You have to make that split second decision of what you need to do with the tools that you have in the home, in your trunk, and maybe in your bag,” Turner said. “You can’t run to supply. You can’t hit that call button for help.”

The previous contract expired in April, and almost a quarter of home care nurses have left the agency for other jobs since then, according to ONA. Nurses who apply to fill the vacant spots usually rescind their applications once they hear the “contract kerfuffle” over wages, Turner said.

Under state law, nurses must give 10-day notice before walking out on strike. No notice was made when this issue went to press.

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