MEDFORD, Ore. -- Nurses at Providence Medford Medical Center will be asking for their breaks, predictable schedules and a higher pay check Thursday. For the first time since they picketed in April, the Oregon Nurses Association will work to nail down a contract with the hospital with a federal mediator.
Dan Richmond, Volunteer with the Oregon Nurses Association Executive Council, said he has high hopes for Thursday's negotiation.
"We're seeking mutually beneficial, practical solutions that are in place at Rogue and at most of the other Providence hospitals already. These are already things they're doing at other hospitals within their organization," Richmond said.
He said the hospital is having a hard time recruiting and retaining nurses, losing about 100 nurses during a less than two-year period.
"That's really expensive to the hospital and those turnover costs and having to recruit and retain, that also means we rely heavily on travelers, which is unfortunate because they tend to do 12-week assignments and we want to keep our nurses local and that benefits our community," Richmond said.
He said an agreement could be reached Thursday, or it could not, in which case the nurses will continue to negotiate in good faith.
Once an agreement is reached, nurses have to vote to approve it.
"It's always going to be up to the nurses to vote on whether or not to ratify a contract and there may be a time where we bring a contract that we don't necessarily feel is a fair deal and ask the nurses for direction," Richmond said.
He also said Thursday's negotiation is timely with the national week to celebrate nurses. The hospital put out free tacos for all caregivers Wednesday and awarded two awards to nurses voted on by other nurses.
"We appreciate the gestures and the appreciation that's really important, but what would be great a great benefit for everyone this week and a great way to end nurses week would be a fair contract that would benefit our community and our nurses and everyone here," Richmond said.
NewsWatch 12 reached out to the hospital about Thursday's negotiation meeting. We received this statement from Communications Director Gary Walker:
“Providence is committed to ensuring that caregivers’ rights related to labor organizing are respected, honored and upheld. Providence has a long history of working together with unions that caregivers have chosen to represent them.
Providence supports open communication. Caregivers can always talk with each other, any core leader or an HR representative about questions or concerns. We are committed to open and honest communication and will answer questions so people can make their own informed decisions. Providence does not question caregivers about their position related to the union, and we are always mindful of our core value of respect.
Providence does not negotiate in the media. We negotiate with the union that represents our nurses – Oregon Nurses Association. The two sides have met for negotiations more than 10 times - four times with a federal mediator - and will meet again tomorrow (Thursday).
We care deeply about our caregivers and believe we will come to an agreement with the union that represents them.”