New contract at Swedish hospitals is ‘a win for all of us’

The following is from SEIU HealthCare 1199NW:

SEATTLE (Oct. 13, 2015) — About 7,000 Swedish Medical Center and Swedish-Edmonds nurses and healthcare workers, united in SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, are celebrating a new contract that will lead to better patient care, better recruitment and retention, and higher standards for King and Snohomish County hospitals and employers.

The nurses, housekeepers, dietary staff, technicians, nursing assistants, and professional staff at Edmonds including pharmacy, social workers, and physical therapists ratified a new contract that guarantees a safe minimum staffing standard for patient care and immediately brings staff and new hires at Swedish campuses in King and Snohomish Counties to a $15/hour minimum wage.

“This contract means that Swedish will have the best standards for care and jobs in our region,” said Margie McInnis, a Sterile Processing Tech at Swedish’s First Hill campus. “Improving staffing, wages, and benefits means patients will have experienced, dedicated staff here when you need us.  Our community stood with us for better jobs and better care and it made a huge difference — this is a win for all of us.”

Key features of the new contract include:

●  Staffing to keep patients safe. Staffing will be set at or above California’s statewide nurse-to-patient ratio law.  Charge nurses have the power to call in more staff when needed.

●  Infection control improvements.  Housekeeping staff will now specialize in one area of the hospital, allowing them to improve infection control.

●  Affordable healthcare for healthcare workers. Swedish will pay 100% of employees’ healthcare cost for families at 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL) or below and will pay 50% of employee healthcare premiums for families under 400% FPL.  Swedish staff maintain their PPO plan for at least four years, guaranteed, and will not be forced onto a high-deductible catastrophic plan.

●  Immediate implementation of $15/hour minimum and raises to keep up with the cost of living. Across-the-board raises totaling a minimum of 7% in the first nine months of the contract for a total of 12.25% over the 4-year life of the contract.  Long-tenured service workers receive an additional 2.5% raise immediately with the addition of a new top wage step.

“Patients and staff deserve to have every effort made to ensure safe staffing. Our new contract lets charge nurses do our jobs by ensuring we have the authority to increase staffing when there is a patient care need,” said Bruce Berghegger, a Charge Nurse at Swedish-Ballard. “This is a big win for patient safety.”

The nurses and healthcare workers began bargaining in April, when Swedish management proposed significant cuts and takeaways. This galvanized the staff who then took part in unit- and hospital-based actions culminating in thousands of workers picketing on July 1. Since then, intensive negotiations have resulted in not just eliminating the cuts but moving forward for the quality of care and jobs. SEIU Healthcare 1199NW members are looking forward to a new relationship with Swedish management that includes cooperative problem solving.

“Our unity and action is making Swedish a standard-setter for safe staffing and quality care,” said Carissa Masching, a Lead Imaging Tech at Swedish-Mill Creek. “Together our coworkers stood up, took action, and won for our patients, our communities, and ourselves. When we fight, we win!”

Nurses and healthcare workers at Harborview Medical Center, Valley Medical Center (Renton), Northwest Hospital, and Highline Medical Center continue to work without contracts as negotiations enter their seventh month.

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is 26,000 nurses, healthcare workers, and mental health workers throughout Washington state, united to improve care and jobs.

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