Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By David Ganezer
Observer Staff Writer 

Strike Averted: St John's Hospital and SEIU Union Reach Tentative Agreement

Providence, Union Avert Strike at the last possible moment


November 30, 2017


Medical technician at St. John's Hospital

Update:This just in from the SEIU: "The strike vote scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 30 at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica has been called off due to a tentative agreement on a new contract reached by the parties. Employees will vote on the agreement next week and details will be released after that. "

From St. John's: "Providence Saint John's Health Center and the SEIU-UHW reached a tentative agreement late Wednesday night for the hospital’s service and technical workers’ first union contract. Negotiations lasted less than six months and resulted in an agreement much quicker than most first contract negotiations. The bargaining unit members are expected to vote on ratifying the agreement in December on a date to be determined. Providence Saint John's is grateful for the commitment to good faith bargaining throughout the negotiations. The new contract is fair to our caregivers and their families, and will enable the hospital to continue providing the highest level of quality care to our patients and community."

Earlier this week: Hundreds of healthcare workers will vote Thursday, Nov. 30 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at St. John's Health Center, 2121 Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica, whether to authorize a strike.

"Understaffing at the hospital is well-documented and yet executives are acting like it's not a threat to patient care," said Linda Phongsvej, a Registered Respiratory Therapist at St. John's Health Center. "This is a serious issue – the community deserves to receive quality care every time they enter the hospital."

The vote will continue Friday, Dec. 1 in the hospital cafeteria and results should be announced that evening, says the Union in a press release. "The vote revolves around hospital executives' failure to bargain in good faith and provide information about patient and worker safety citations," the union says, noting that a strike would affect 450 workers, including everyone from nursing assistants and licensed vocational nurses to respiratory therapists and pharmacy technicians. Workers voted to join a union, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, in February 2017.

"Forty-seven percent of workers say staffing has decreased in their department during the past year, and more than a third indicate that understaffing delays their ability to respond to patient call lights, according to a worker survey conducted in September 2017, says the Union. " reported that only 58 percent of St. John's patients "always received help as soon as they wanted," compared to the state average of 61 percent and the national average of 69 percent."


Nurses outside St. John's Providence Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica

"Providence Saint John's Health Center was disappointed to learn through the media that SEIU-UHW has called a strike vote for service and technical employees who work at the hospital. The hospital and the union are in the midst of negotiations for a first contract," says Patricia Aidem, a spokeswoman for Providence Health.

"First contract negotiations typically take more than a year; this bargain has been underway for less than half that time. Both teams have shared information, offered meaningful compromises and reached tentative agreements on individual contract articles, which is the heart of the bargaining process," notes Aidem.

"From the hospital's perspective, negotiations have been productive to date and it is premature to call a strike, which, in effect, is an abandonment of the bargaining process. Providence Saint John's looks forward to getting back to focusing on bargaining in good faith toward a first contract that ensures continued excellent patient care, provides security for caregivers and their families, and is sustainable for the health center," she added.


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