(Update: Full ONA statement on news conference)
Strike could begin June 12th, if negotiations on new contract don't bear fruit soon
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – The Oregon Nurses Association, representing nearly 1,000 St. Charles Bend nurses, gave a 10-day strike notice to hospital officials late Thursday afternoon, which could lead to a walkout starting June 12, if negotiations -- now to include a federal mediator -- don't result in a new contract or make adequate progress by then.
The ONA recently held a strike authorization vote and reported the frontline nurses overwhelmingly agreed to a walkout, if talks on a new contract don’t bear fruit. Their last contract expired Dec. 31, but the nurses have continued to work under its terms, until and unless the union declares an impasse and leaves the table.
Both sides in the dispute were meeting with reporters Friday morning.
Here's the full ONA release issued after Friday morning's news conference;
Nurses at St. Charles Medical Center announce plans to strike on June 12
Oregon Nurses Assn. - 06/02/23 9:48 AM
Nearly 1,000 nurses will walk if a deal isn’t reached during negotiations next week
(Bend, Ore.) - On June 1, 2023, nurses at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, represented by the Oregon Nurses Association, delivered a 10-day notice of their intent to strike to hospital management. The notice informed management that the nearly 1,000 nurses at the facility intend to begin their strike on June 12, 2023, at 7:00 a.m.
Erin Harrington, RN, Chair of the St. Charles Medical Center Bend Bargaining Unit Executive Committee, said during a press conference this morning, “We have provided a 10-day notice to give enough time for the hospital to transfer patients and make decisions about what services they will continue to provide. It is important for you to know that St. Charles has a duty to provide adequate care to this community, and because they need to meet that need, St. Charles should seek to settle this contract as soon as possible.”
Nurses and management have been engaged in contract negotiations for months and nurses are clear that hospital management has not responded to their concerns with serious proposals.
“We asked St. Charles to put safe staffing standards to protect patients and support quality care into our contract. They said no,” said Heather Bristol, RN. “We asked St. Charles to help the nurses who provide health care get more affordable health insurance. They said no. We asked St. Charles to give us assurances that, if St. Charles sells the hospital to some other health system, we could keep our jobs. They said no. We asked for reasonable, competitive pay – pay that will enable nurses to afford to live in this community while caring for the members of this community, and a salary that will help recruit nurses to the hospital. They said no.”
Nurses and management have two additional negotiating sessions scheduled for June 6 and 7 which will include a federal mediator. “It is important for everyone to know that we are engaged in every effort to reach a fair agreement,” said Harrington. “And that includes having a federal mediator attend upcoming negotiations on June 6 and 7. Nurses have bargained in good faith, and we need St. Charles to do the same in the hope of getting a fair contract before June 12 at 7:00 a.m.”
Jonathon Baker, President of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, a union that represents nearly 6,000 RNs and healthcare professionals in Oregon and Southwest Washington at healthcare systems like Kaiser, PeaceHealth, and at St. Charles, also attended the press conference and offered the support of his union.
“The RNs represented by ONA are the ones that actually do the patient care, not the high-paid executives who are refusing to agree to a fair contract,” Baker said. “Along with the techs we represent, the RNs are who is keeping Central Oregon healthy day in and day out. We, together, are who carried this community through the pandemic, who come into work each morning prepared to do what it takes to save lives.”
Also in attendance at the press conference was Oregon State Representative Jason Kropf, who called upon St. Charles to return to the bargaining table prepared to reach a fair contract.
“To be clear, the status quo is unacceptable. Federal unfair labor practice act complaints, state staffing law complaints, and OSHA violations all underscore that St. Charles must do better,” said Kropf. “I am urging St. Charles executives to reach a fair contract that empowers our nurses to safely and effectively return to work. Our community deserves quality healthcare, and our nurses deserve the support to provide it.”
Nurses continue to engage in outreach to the greater Central Oregon region to educate the community about the many issues they face. Community members can visit www.RespectOurNurses.com to learn more about ongoing negotiations, sign a community petition in support of the nurses, and get information about the impact of a potential strike.
The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) is the state’s largest and most influential nursing organization. We are a professional association and labor union which represents more than 16,000 nurses and allied health workers throughout the state, including nearly 1,000 frontline nurses at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend. ONA also represents nurses at other St. Charles facilities in Redmond and Prineville. ONA’s mission is to advocate for nursing, quality health care and healthy communities. For more information visit: www.OregonRN.org.
In its media invitation Thursday evening, the hospital said noted that two more days of negotiations are scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday, “and St. Charles leaders remain committed to bargaining in good faith to reach a contract agreement without a work stoppage.”
They said hospital officials will update the current status of bargaining, “the impact a strike would potentially have on hospital operations and contingency plans the health system will put in place to keep emergency and crucial care available if a strike ultimately occurs.”