Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that Swedish Medical Center and its workers’ union have agreed on a new employee contract, after nearly a year of negotiations and a three-day strike in late January.
Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW voted “overwhelmingly” to ratify the contracts Monday night, according to a statement from Inslee’s office. The new contracts cover more than 7,700 registered nurses, nursing assistants and technical and service caregivers of Swedish Medical Center and Swedish Edmonds, which are affiliated with Providence Health & Services.
Although the hospital and its union began negotiations in April 2019, both stood firm for months, culminating in a walkout that affected seven Swedish campuses in January. Inslee convened the two sides last month with an independent and federal mediator.
“We appreciate the governor’s engagement in bringing the parties together to address the key issues for nurses and healthcare workers at Swedish,” said SEIU President Diane Sosne in the statement. “It’s especially important to have this contract ratified during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The investment of dedicated funding in a labor-management innovation partnership shows a real commitment from Swedish to partner with nurses and caregivers to face present and future healthcare challenges together.”
The previous contract the hospital offered to its workers — which the union rejected — included an 11.25% raise over four years, while SEIU countered with its own proposal, a 23.25% increase in wages over four years.
The new contract calls for a 13.5% wage increase over three years.
The contract includes a partnership agreement that offers new zero-premium health coverage for employees who earn less than $60,000 per year, the statement said. The agreement also focuses on protecting staff, advancing recruitment of new employees and improving administration’s communication with front-line caregivers when discussing staffing levels — all of which were major issues to workers who went on strike.
“I am grateful that we came together to finalize these agreements during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic,” said Swedish CEO Dr. Guy Hudson in the statement. “Now more than ever, we need to be One Swedish to support our patients, community and each other during this crisis.”
In addition, the agreement establishes a joint labor-management innovation fund, which will be used to develop worksite innovation leaders, improve recruitment for a multiracial care team and study new developments in technology, the statement said.
Swedish will commit $1 million over four years to the fund.
“I want to thank the leadership of 1199NW and Swedish for agreeing to reconvene and work hard to reach this agreement,” Inslee said in the statement. “(The mediators) did an impressive job of keeping people talking and all parties focused on the most important goal: a unified health care system to help us fight against this global pandemic.”