As striking Swedish Medical Center nurses and caregivers prepare to return to work Friday, they say there’s some confusion about who will be allowed back that day.
About 7,800 Swedish workers began their three-day walkout Tuesday morning, with plans to return to their jobs starting Friday morning. Hospital management, however, said only certain caregivers should come back that day.
Robin Wyss, secretary and treasurer of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW, said that employees usually get their schedules several weeks in advance, so they know who is supposed to work Friday. Now, she said, it’s unclear if they’ll be able to take their regular shift.
Thousands of replacement caregivers hired by Swedish flew into town over the weekend and began work on Tuesday, the first day of the strike. They’re contracted to be there until 7 a.m. Sunday, said Swedish spokeswoman Tiffany Moss.
“It’s all happening very fluidly, but everyone who will be called back will be notified before Friday,” Moss said. “We will call people back as needed.”
Striking employees who were scheduled to work between Friday morning and Sunday morning “may be called back based on patient care needs,” a hospital statement said. Swedish will require some, but not all, regularly scheduled caregivers to return.
“Unless called back earlier by Swedish, and to ensure an orderly return to work, employees who choose to strike should not report back to work until 7 a.m. on Sunday, February 2 (if scheduled to work at that time), or the start time of their next shift after that date and time,” the statement read.
SEIU members say they want to return to their patients as soon as possible.
“As this is an unfair-labor-practice strike, locking out workers would be illegal, because union members made an unconditional offer to return to work after the strike at 7:30 am Friday morning,” a Wednesday statement from the union said.
On Wednesday, striking workers and community members marched from the hospital’s First Hill campus to Westlake Park, where they held a rally to voice their concerns with staffing, improper medical equipment and a lack of security.
Local officials also made appearances at the Wednesday rally, including Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and Joe McDermott, of the Metropolitan King County Council.
Although a Swedish news release Wednesday said that 1,100 caregivers have showed up to work during the strike, an SEIU spokesman said nearly all union members have walked out.
Over the weekend, Swedish closed the labor and delivery unit at its Ballard campus. On Monday evening, it closed the Ballard and Redmond emergency departments. Some services, including the Level II nursery and adult ICU, were moved from the Issaquah campus to other facilities Monday.
Since the strike began, no other operations have been consolidated, Moss said.