(Update: Adding video, comments from technologist, OFNHP representative)
Union claims hospital putting off talks with mediator, broke federal labor law
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A union representing more than 150 St. Charles Bend technologists has notified the hospital of their intent to strike in 10 days, bringing a stern rebuke from the hospital system, which accuses the union of bad-faith bargaining.
Negotiations stalled late last year on efforts to reach an initial contract between the recently unionized group,, part of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, and the hospital.
Harris Leslie has worked at St. Charles Bend for the last six years.
"I specialize in the heart,” the cardiac sonographer told NewsChannel 21 Monday about his job. “So I do all different types of ultrasound procedures on the heart."
Leslie is one the technologists intending to strike if the hospital does not resume negotiations on the union's contract.
"My compensation is not at what would be an appropriate market value for the area," Leslie said.
Those represented by the union includes raspatory therapists, critical to the fight against COVID-19.
Union representative Samuel Potter said that risk was considered.
The intent to strike vote passed overwhelmingly, 94 percent in favor, the union said.
"We're willing to do whatever it takes to finish this contract, before the 10 days are up," Potter said.
In a statement, St. Charles said the two sides were in discussions with a federal mediator and already had scheduled a new negotiating session on March 10 -- but the hospital said it won't proceed with the talks and instead will prepare for the walkout.
Rebecca Berry, vice president of human resources for St. Charles Health System, said, "if ONFHP believes that progress is not being made, it needs to look at its own decisions."
Potter said the contract was 85 percent complete when St. Charles left the table in December. But St Charles said it was waiting for the union to respond to its last offer.
"Two things are remaining the table: Fair wages and respect," Potter said.
And Leslie added a resolution will result in the best patient care possible.
"We really care about our patients," he said.
St. Charles said it plans to file an unfair labor practice charge of bad faith bargaining with the National Labor Relations Board.
Here is the full statement from the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals:
"This (strike notice) decision comes after more than an arduous full year of negotiating their first union contract, where management refused to agree to fair wage and working condition proposals and is stalling on setting reasonable bargaining dates.
"Management’s unwillingness to settle the contract has pushed these essential healthcare employees to take a stand so that they can gain living wages and a voice on the job. The medical techs voted by more than 94% to authorize the strike and sent the 10-day notice of striking shortly after authorization.
“Management has been unwilling to agree to common-sense proposals that can help both staff and patients, and this is our last resort to improve the conditions at the hospital,” says DeeDee Schumacher, an ultrasound technologist who has worked at St. Charles for 40 years.
“We don’t want to strike and would rather continue working in our community, so we hope the hospital will avert this by settling a fair contract.”
"After winning a union election in 2019, this unit of front-line caregivers has been bargaining their first contract for more than a full year, and the hospital has yet to agree to critical provisions about pay and other working conditions.
"In addition, the hospital broke federal labor law by changing pay for some health care professionals.
"Over the weekend of January 31st and February 1st the techs held an informational picket at the hospital with mass participation. On December 3, 2020, the hospital canceled bargaining and only agreed to return to the bargaining table following that picket. Management subsequently agreed to mediation, but have still delayed establishing timely bargaining dates.
"We know that when front-line health workers do not receive the support they need, then patient care can also suffer. Since our patients are our top priority, the technologists, technicians, and therapists are calling on the hospital to do the right thing for both their community and staff. Over 90% of these techs report being underpaid, and management’s proposals would not allow for adequate wage adjustments," the statement concluded.
St. Charles issued this statement Monday afternoon:
BEND, Ore. – St. Charles Health System was disappointed to receive a 10-day strike notice from OFNHP today for a strike of indefinite duration beginning March 4. OFNHP represents about 150 technical employees at the St. Charles Bend hospital campus.
“We are in the midst of a pandemic where St. Charles and all of our caregivers have been at the forefront of treating our community members with COVID-19. Our organization is also deeply involved in running large-scale community vaccination clinics for three counties alongside our Deschutes County partners,” said Aaron Adams, president of St. Charles Bend and Redmond. “While this strike notice cannot slow our efforts to meet these critical community needs, it just adds new – and unnecessary – challenges when our community needs us most.”
"The timing of this notice is completely inconsistent with what OFNHP has been asking of St. Charles. As recently as Saturday, the two parties were in discussion with a federal mediator to see if new dates for bargaining could be set in addition to the March 10 date that is already scheduled. The mediator offered dates on March 3, 4 or 5, which were under consideration when the strike notice was delivered. Because OFNHP has chosen to strike, St. Charles will now be required to direct its time to strike preparation rather than negotiations and will be unable to meet during the notice period.
"The St. Charles bargaining team has been waiting since Dec. 3 for OFNHP to respond to its last negotiation offer. St. Charles and OFNHP have met 28 times to negotiate the first-time contract – 23 of them during a global pandemic.
“While the surge in COVID-19 cases over the past few months has made it difficult to continue bargaining with full bargaining teams, we have invited OFNHP to provide a comprehensive response via email or over the phone. OFNHP has not chosen to do so,” said Rebecca Berry, vice president of Human Resources for St. Charles Health System. “If ONFHP believes that progress is not being made, it needs to look at its own decisions. We were concerned enough about the lack of progress that we suggested bringing in a federal mediator and OFNHP agreed. Now, OFNHP has issued a strike notice without ever meeting with a mediator, even though it had already agreed to the specific date of March 10 for our next session. We don’t understand OFNHP’s strategy.”
"Because St. Charles leaders are concerned that OFNHP is bargaining in bad faith – and in doing so jeopardizing the patients in our community – the health system plans to file an unfair labor practice charge of bad faith bargaining with the National Labor Relations Board so that these concerns can be fully addressed."
“Again, we reiterate our disappointment in OFNHP’s decision,” Berry said. “St. Charles will take all necessary steps to ensure that care for our community continues in a safe and uninterrupted way.”
Jack Hirsh is speaking with a representative from the ONFHP and will have a full report starting on NewsChannel 21 Fox @ 4.