Swedish nurses, health care workers threaten informational picket July 1

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The union representing 7,000 Swedish-Providence nurses and health care workers, including those who work at Swedish Edmonds, announced Friday that it has notified the hospital system of plans to hold an informational picket July 1 if Swedish-Providence doesn’t agree to “better staffing and good jobs.”

According to a news release from SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, Swedish-Providence needs to invest “part of its $110 million profit in improving its staffing levels and investing in frontline caregivers in order to ensure patients get the care they deserve.”

“Providence is trying to undermine the great care we give at Swedish by undermining our standards,” said Bobbi Gant, an RN in the ICU at Swedish-Providence Edmonds. “We’re standing up for our patients, our families and our community.”

The nurses and health care workers proposed setting safe maximum numbers of patients per nurse, but Swedish-Providence management refused, the announcement said. “Swedish-Providence, which made $110 million in profit in 2014, is instead trying to shift employees to an unaffordable high-deductible health plan and to undermine the quality of jobs available in our community,” the news release added.

Swedish External Communications Director Mary Beth Lowell stressed that since the union action is an informational picket rather than a strike, staffing for patient care should not be impacted. Lowell added that the hospital, which has been in contract negotiations with the union since April, is “disappointed that SEIU 1199NW has chosen to hold an informational picket as we prefer to get back to the bargaining table.”

The union announcement said that the nurses and health care workers proposed setting safe maximum numbers of patients per nurse, but hospital management refused. Swedish-Providence “is instead trying to shift employees to an unaffordable high-deductible health plan and to undermine the quality of jobs available in our community,” the union said, resulting in more than 1,600 vacancies.

Lowell countered that Swedish “is proposing market-competitive wage increases, offering more choices for medical plans, and solving staffing concerns by hiring more permanent caregivers (employees). In fact, Swedish is currently investing heavily in staffing and has launched a recruiting campaign to hire 1,600 new permanent caregivers (system-wide) by the end of this year.”

“We all share the same goal of making sure we continue to provide high-quality, compassionate care to our communities,” she said.

If informational pickets are held, they will occur at all Swedish-Providence campuses on July 1 from noon until 2 p.m., followed by a large picket with rally at Swedish-First Hill from 4pm-6:30 p.m. Nurses and health care workers will be picketing during breaks and between shifts, the union said.

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