About 1,800 Providence nurses in Portland and Seaside plan to strike next week. Nurses say they need better pay, more paid time off and improved working conditions. If the strike happens as both sides are expecting, it will last five days and will impact the operations of two hospitals and Providence’s home health and hospice teams. And unless a deal is reached over the weekend, it will be the first nurses strike in Portland in more than 20 years.
OPB health reporter Amelia Templeton spoke with “All Things Considered” host Crystal Ligori about the impending strike.
Crystal Ligori: So a lot of times we hear about impending strikes that don’t actually happen, like in Bend just last week where nurses and the hospitals reached a deal in the nick of time. Why does this strike seem more likely to actually happen?
Amelia Templeton: Well, the two sides have stopped meeting and are no longer negotiating with each other.
The sides involved here are this powerful union, the Oregon Nurses Association and Providence, which is now the fourth-largest health system in the country.
There are three separate labor contracts that are part of the dispute. One is the contract for more than 1,000 nurses who work for Providence Portland Medical Center, that’s one of their two big hospitals here in the metro area. About 120 nurses at Providence Hospital and Seaside are also negotiating their contract. And then there’s a contract for 400 nurses and other workers who do home health and hospice visits for Providence. So these three groups all decided to negotiate together.
When they gave 10-day notice that they planned to go on strike, Providence managers canceled the remaining negotiation sessions. The Chief Executive of Providence Portland hospital told me that the managers who sit at the bargaining table are the same people who needed to spend this week preparing for a strike and figuring out how to run the hospital [without their nurses].