Olympic Medical Center approves contract agreements

They began negotiations last October and on Feb. 6, the Olympic Medical Center board of directors approved a contract with the Service Employees International Union Local 1199.

According to the hospital’s chief human resources officer, Richard Newman, there are two contracts: one for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses and the other for hospital service workers. Both contracts were renewed for another three years. RNs and LPNs will receive an initial wage increase of 3 percent. The second year brings another 3 percent, and during the third year of the contract the nurses will receive another 3 percent wage increase. Service workers will receive a 3-percent increase during the contract’s first year, then a 4-percent increase and finally another 3-percent increase.

Newman says that naturally the union didn’t start out asking for such wage increases.

“The union comes in typically asking for a lot,” said Newman, who said this time the union was asking for more money and more premiums. “We felt like they were asking for a lot.”

One of the things the union was asking for was wages comparable to those in more metropolitan areas such as Seattle. Workers argued that by not sufficiently upgrading their salary increases, the hospital would end up losing out in the long run by turning potential staff away.

“We see the big picture, which is a nursing shortage,” said Lisa Unger, an RN in the hospital’s short stay unit, during a Jan. 16 meeting of the board of commissioners.

“Removing the benefits won’t influence people to come here,” added Dan Grimes, part of the service personnel at the hospital.

According to Newman, meeting the union’s requests has become harder over the past year. “Last year’s third- and fourth-quarters were money-losing quarters for us,” said Newman. “It’s kind of a dance that we do all the time.”

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