Amidst Pandemic, Workers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Announce Strike
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital received notice from the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW)—a union representing service and technical workers—that it plans to conduct a five-day strike beginning at 6 a.m. on Monday, July 20 through 6 a.m. Saturday, July 25.
“It is important for our patients and their families to know that our doors will remain open. The community can continue to count on us to provide the high-quality, compassionate care they expect and deserve,” said Tyler Hedden, Chief Executive.
We recognize our caregivers’ rights to engage in this action and other lawful activities, however, we are deeply disappointed that NUHW has decided to hold a five-day strike given that the number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise in Sonoma County and the potential for a significant increase in hospitalizations remains. It’s important we remain vigilant and continue to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
The union has made clear in communications to our caregivers that this is not a strike about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or workplace safety. Instead, this is an ordinary dispute over the terms of our labor contract. It is unfortunate and unfounded that the union is using COVID-19 as a platform for its negotiating tactics. We never deny a caregiver PPE. Any claim to the contrary is simply not true. Throughout our response to COVID-19 we have made sure caregivers have had access to PPE, despite global shortages. This is the benefit of being a part of Providence St. Joseph Health, an organization made up of 51 hospitals in seven states. If needed, our hospitals can shift resources to a hospital in need.
Our Emergency Department is fully staffed and ready for any emergency needs. However, during the strike our outpatient imaging services will be closed. If patients had an outpatient imaging appointment scheduled July 20-24, they should have received a call to reschedule.
“We have contracted with an agency to provide highly qualified and experienced replacement caregivers to ensure uninterrupted patient care, which is standard industry practice during a strike,” continued Hedden.
The agency through which these replacement caregivers were hired required a five-day minimum contractual commitment to secure their services. This means the replacement caregivers will be working at the hospital for five days, beginning on the day of the strike.
The hospital has been meeting with the union for the past year. The proposal we offered featured significant wage increases and a generous package of benefits, including the same paid time off (PTO), retirement and benefit options that NUHW-represented caregivers at other hospitals in Northern California have accepted in their contract. We made this offer even in an extremely challenging environment for hospitals across the country.
Details of the offer:
Wages. Our offer included guaranteed minimum wage increases of 12% over four years, plus “step” increases based on seniority. These increases build off the existing wage scale for NUHW caregivers, which includes a just wage for entry level positions. For example, a beginning janitorial caregiver would receive more than $20 an hour (plus benefits) under our offer. Based on skill level, many caregivers would receive substantially more, for instance, an imaging technologist could earn more than $77 per hour (plus evening and night shift bonuses) by the end of the proposed four-year deal.
More Health Plan Options. Our ministry’s proposal adds two new, low-cost health plan options for NUHW represented caregivers. These are Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) health plans that provide access to a variety of providers. They also give caregivers the ability to earn up to $1,400 annually in tax-exempt health savings and reimbursement accounts. Caregivers who wish to could still select the current Northern California PPO plan, with annual premium increases limited by contract.
Paid Time Off. The ministry offer also includes a new schedule of PTO accrual rates. Most caregivers would accrue the same, or even more PTO every year under this proposal. To offset changes for other caregivers, our proposal includes a new wage step for high seniority caregivers and delays the effective date of the new PTO plan until 2023, as well as an increased retirement benefit for many affected employees.
“We all want the same thing—the competitive pay and benefits package that will allow us to retain and attract the best talent to serve Sonoma County. It is our desire to reach an agreement with NUHW on the few remaining articles so our employees may receive the significant and immediate wage increases our current offer would provide,” said Hedden.
Please visit www.stjoesonoma.org/negotiationnews to read the hospital’s most recent NUHW Bargaining Update. Please note that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, requires specific security standards for all hospitals. These Federal security standards set forth protections for all hospital information to maintain patient privacy. In keeping with these privacy laws, media are not permitted onto hospital grounds to conduct interviews or film staff, patients or visitors without proper authorization and an escort.