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Providence nurses in Olympia plan ULP strike

The following was distributed Monday morning by SEIU HealthCare 1199NW:

OLYMPIA — Despite significant profit margins, Providence Health and Services is demanding takeaways from nurses and healthcare workers at Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice.  Facing proposed new policies that would reduce access to sick leave and shift family healthcare costs to workers, nurses and healthcare workers have delivered notice of a two-day unfair labor practice strike Nov. 9 and 10.

Providence’s proposed changes in personal leave would encourage caregivers to come to work sick to avoid losing personal time, and penalize employees with children, or those dealing with frequent illness. Workers say these changes would hurt their families and patients. The unfair labor practice strike is set to begin at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9 and continue until 6:59 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 11.

“This is a patient care issue,” said Judy Taylor, RN.  “We work with the elderly, who are in fragile health.  We cannot expose these frail patients to illness, but management’s proposals will encourage people to come to work sick. This new policy would also be punitive to workers with ongoing health issues and parents with children who get sick.

“It’s outrageous that in the face of nearly a billion dollars in profits since the recession started, they would ask us to bear the burden of additional costs and create anti-family policies that punish workers,” Taylor continued. “We’d rather not go on strike, but we need to take a stand for what is right.”

“I have two kids, and like a lot of families we’re just making ends meet. At a time when Providence continues to make huge profits, they’re making families like mine choose between insurance and other needs. It doesn’t make any sense, and they’re not offering any explanation,” said Korky Lacy, an LPN.

While the rest of the country continues to face a recession, the Providence System has racked up $942 million in operating profits from 2008 through 2010, and has already posted over $135 million in operating profits through June 2011. At least eight regional and system-level executives make more than $1 million in total annual compensation, including CEO John Koster with total compensation of $1.8 million, according to the most recently available financial data.

Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice provides hospice and home care services for Mason, Lewis and Thurston counties.

More than 160 workers at Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice are represented by SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, including nurses, home health aides, social workers, physical therapists, and others. Their current contract expired Feb. 28, 2011.

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