Federal mediation makes progress

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Both PeaceHealth and ONA reps encouraged by first round of talks

The first mediation session between PeaceHealth Medical Group and Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) representatives under Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service supervision, April 10, has had some success.

Both sides acknowledged limited progress in the previously stalled negotiations.

A federal mediator was called in after six failed attempts at negotiating a new contract for the 75 nurses working currently without contract at Peace Harbor Medical Center. The previous contract expired Dec. 31 and a one-month extension lapsed Jan. 31.

Mediation differs from face to face negotiations. The mediator meets separately with one side at a time, then relays responses and recommendations to the other side in another room.

ONA negotiator and Peace Harbor Registered Nurse Elaine Beers said, “Happily, there were small amounts of movement from PeaceHealth.”

An ONA negotiations update report stated,  “The employer finally agreed to pay differentials comparable to the prevailing standard in nearly all categories. We also agreed to language regarding the order of cancellation for low census, the availability of relief nurses (must be available for four scheduled shifts per month instead of the current three) and a clearer definition of preceptors.”

According to ONA labor representative Gary Aguiar, differentials are hourly incentives for nurses to work evenings, nights and weekends that are separate from salary negotiations.

“These are separate from the wage scale, which determines the base wage for each nurse. We are still bargaining a cost of living increase on wage scale for each year of our successor agreement,” Aguiar said.

PeaceHealth Strategic Communications and Engagement Director Marcy Marshall said in a statement, “The mediation session yielded considerable progress as we continue to bargain in good faith to reach a fair and equitable agreement that supports our skilled and dedicated nurses.”

According to the ONA update, both sides have not yet reached agreement on several major issues, including salaries, employee health benefits, uniformed security and limits of on-call time.

Marshall said that during the mediation, “PeaceHealth recommended the establishment of a collaborative labor management committee structure, a mechanism that works well in other locations. This forum would include Peace Harbor Medical Center management and ONA nurses who will collaborate on various topics such as training and security.”

A second mediation session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 26.

Marshall said, “We are looking forward to our next meeting on April 26, when we hope to reach a tentative agreement on a new contract. We do believe mediation services helped pave the way toward progress, and remain optimistic that we will reach a fair and equitable agreement that reflects our Catholic social teachings and core value of respect for all caregivers.”

In case a tentative agreement is not reached during that session, ONA is asking Peace Harbor nurses to vote to approve a proposed one-day informational picket, tentatively scheduled for Monday, May 1.

According to ONA, an informational picket is not a strike. Nurses continue to work their scheduled shifts, but walk the picket line on breaks and their days off.

ONA is required to give PeaceHealth a 10-day notice prior to a picket.

The informational picket authorization vote by ONA Peace Harbor nurses will be held from April 17 to April 20.

Aguiar said, “Over the last few weeks, nurses tell me they have been hearing from many patients, volunteers, contributors to the hospital and others.  This support sustains nurses as they continue to advocate for their patients. 

“Our goal is simple: we are trying to get ahead of the curve on this looming nursing shortage.  We want to encourage nurses to come to Florence to make a career and a life here over the next few years.  We are offering proposals so that Florence can be a competitive option for experienced nurses to settle down.”

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