The 280 nurses and caregivers at Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County announced this week that they have won a first-ever union contract, which “will substantially enhance the quality of care for vulnerable patients and transform jobs into sustainable careers,” according to SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, which represents the workers.
The three-year agreement includes expanded training and continuing education; a process for improving staffing; maintenance of sick time, retirement, affordable healthcare and other benefits; a fair and transparent wage scale that rewards years of experience; and raises which will recruit and retain qualified staff, the union announcement said.
“I started in health care 18 years ago and worked my way up to become a registered nurse because I love caring for people, especially those who don’t have any family,” said Neneh Jallow-Avants, a registered nurse at Providence Hospice and Home Care who lives in Lynnwood. “Sometimes I am the only person my patients see the entire week, and their faces light up with gratitude and happiness when I arrive. Because I care about my patients’ physical and emotional health so deeply, it really hurt me when I saw colleagues around me leaving for other employers.
“Now that we have a union contract with major improvement like a fair pay scale, we can keep our quality, seasoned clinicians and ensure the best care for our patients,” Jallow-Avants continued. “This work is all about the original founding values of the Sisters of Providence, giving patients comfort and hope. Because we have a union voice, we’re able to stay true to that vision.”
These workers care for some of the most vulnerable residents of Snohomish County, including those at the end of life and recovering from surgery or illness, both in people’s homes and at the Providence Everett Hospice Care Center, the union says. Staff include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, chaplains, home health aides, social workers, grief counselors, physical therapists, clerks and others. Caregivers voted overwhelmingly to ratify the contract during two days of online balloting on April 4 and 5, and the votes were tallied on April 6.
According to the union’s announcement, workers voted “by a landslide” to join SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, four years ago — on April 6, 2016 — and since then had participated in scores of actions including a three-day strike in December 2017.
The key patient care and jobs improvements in the contract include:
- The establishment of staffing and labor-management committees so frontline workers have an ongoing voice in decision-making;
- Significantly expanded funding and 24 paid hours per year for training and education;
- Maintenance of paid sick time, retirement benefits, and affordable health insurance;
- A fair and transparent wage scale that rewards caregivers for years of service, including credit for past experience;
- Premium pay to recognize a wide range of advanced certifications, guaranteed in the contract;
- Shift differential pay for evenings, nights, weekends and holidays, guaranteed in the contract;
- Increased pay when workers are “on call” or get called back into work;
- Restrictions on mandatory after-hours and weekend work, to avoid staff burn out;
- Total raises of up to 17 % over the life of the contract, depending on staff experience.
The 8,000 nurses and caregivers who are members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW at Swedish Medical Center, which is also owned by Providence St. Joseph Health, settled their contract as well this week. That contract covers seven Swedish-Providence locations, including the Swedish Edmonds Campus and Swedish Mill Creek Campus, an ambulatory care center. Among many improvements, the agreement includes staffing increases, provisions to safeguard against racial discrimination, better medical benefits and substantial raises.