Swedish Medical Center and its workers’ union returned to the bargaining table Monday morning, almost two weeks after thousands of the hospital’s caregivers began a three-day strike.
This is the first time since the walkout that the two sides have set a date to revisit negotiations, though they worked through a federal mediator on Monday and didn’t meet face-to-face, said hospital spokeswoman Tiffany Moss.
“Our team is in an ongoing facilitated bargaining session with [the union] today and we hope we can make progress,” Moss wrote in a message.
Negotiations began at 9 a.m. and lasted until around 6 p.m.
The union, Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW, said in a Monday statement that members entered the bargaining meetings with new energy, but started feeling discouraged as the day continued.
“While union members are working to come to agreement on a fair contract, Swedish-Providence management has not moved on its proposals and continues to be unresponsive to caregivers’ proposals for safe staffing,” the statement said. “In fact, management’s proposals would make recruitment and retention worse than the situation that’s already been reported, and put back on the table several proposals that would move the contract backwards.”
In preparation for the strike, Swedish hired a “few thousand” replacement nurses and caregivers from three different health-care agencies to fly in from all over the country and staff its hospitals during the walkout.
Swedish declined to give any more information about which agencies were used. They said all procedures under the replacement caregivers went “remarkably well.”
Many union members were frustrated with the hiring of the temporary workers, whose contracts kept them in Seattle until after SEIU caregivers had pledged to return to work.
The most recent contract the hospital offered to its workers included an 11.25% raise over four years — 3% retroactive to 2019; 3% in 2020; 2.75% in 2021; and 2.5% in 2022. SEIU countered with its own proposal, a 23.25% increase in wages over four years.
The last contract expired at the end of July, and caregivers had been working without one for about six months.
No further information about the Monday meetings was available. Moss said there would be more details about next steps Tuesday morning.