Hospital strike is looming

Harrison Medical Center’s 800 or so professional and technical workers that belong to UFCW 21 will hold a strike authorization vote on Tuesday, June 10.

“The key to winning a fair contract is our unity and resolve,” states a flier announcing the upcoming vote. “We are holding this strike authorization vote so we can have as much strength as possible when we resume negotiations on June 17 and 18. While striking is a last resort, your Bargaining Team needs this authorization to change Management’s offer and come back with a contract we can all be proud of.”

The union and Harrison have been in negotiations on a new contract since last summer and workers have overwhelmingly rejected previous contract offers from management.

Jacquie Goodwill, Harrison’s director of marketing and communication, says hospital leaders are committed to negotiating in good faith to reach a fair settlement.

“We understand that this is a challenging time in healthcare,” Goodwill said. “Despite this, we have made great progress in our negotiations. The major issue at impasse has been the no-strike clause. As Kitsap’s regional medical center and only level III trauma center, patient safety is one area in which we cannot compromise.The risk to staffing levels and patient care is too great without the no-strike clause in place.”

Goodwill says a no-strike clause would not prevent ProTech workers from striking.

“Such a clause is common in other hospital contracts so that they can continue to provide the same level of patient care—and UFCW has agreed to similar provisions at many other hospitals,” Goodwill said. “The no-strike clause means that a represented employee would remain working, providing patient care, and receiving pay during a labor dispute among other workers not represented in one’s own unit. It’s an important distinction and one that ensures the hospital can remain open for patient care.”

A call to UFCW 21 spokesman Tom Geiger was not returned, but according to union literature, several other issues beyond a no-strike clause, remain in play as part of the negotiations. A union brochure says the ProTech workers want a contract that lasts three years like they have had for more than three decades and a contract that protects their healthcare.

The flier says the union wants a contract that, “Prevents Management from doing what they want, to who they want, how they want and whenever they want.”

The last two demands on the flier call for a contract that doesn’t weaken the union’s grievance procedure, continues to require management to respond in a timely manner and protects and ensures the union’s ability to stand together with co-workers if they have a strike or dispute.

The first voting session to potentially authorize a strike will be held at 8 a.m. in the lounge of the Sheridan Park Recreation Center at 680 Lebo Blvd. in Bremerton.

Subsequent voting sessions will take place at the recreation center at 1:30, 4 and 8 p.m. Each of the meetings are expected to last about 45 minutes. Union members must be present to vote.


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