News

Strike order extended

by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

A Kitsap court has approved a request by both Olympic Medical Center and union workers to extend a restraining order that led to the cancelation of a planned Aug. 11 strike at Olympic Memorial Hospital.

 

The Kitsap County Superior Court on Aug. 3 issued the restraining order against the strike.

 

The restraining order has been extended through Sept. 16.

 

The court will hold a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 16 to hear OMC’s request for a preliminary injunction to keep in place the order prohibiting a strike.

 

In issuing the original temporary restraining order, the court declared that as public employees the workers had no right to strike.

 

OMC officials said the strike by workers covered by contracts with the Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199 NW (SEIU) would have cost OMC $600,000 for temporary workers. After the restraining order was issued, OMC was able to cancel the contract with the temporary employment agency, but lost its nonrefundable $90,000 deposit.

 

OMC officials and SEIU representatives both said they are committed to continuing to bargain in good faith toward a contract resolution. The two sides met on Aug. 4 and have three additional bargaining dates scheduled between August 25 and August 30.

 

Laura Joshel, employee relations coordinator, said, “The agreement to extend the temporary restraining order another 30 days allows SEIU and the Medical Center to focus our full attention on negotiations. We have offered to set more dates for bargaining as may be needed.”

 

The two parties already are engaged in mediation through Washington’s Public Employees Relation Commission (PERC), a process they jointly requested.

Van De Wege speaks

State representative Kevin Van De Wege has found himself caught up in the dispute, a result of his decision to speak to SEIU workers during the informational picket they held as an alternative to the planned Aug. 11 strike. But Van De Wege, who as a firefighter also belongs to a public union, said he isn’t taking sides.

 

“I agree with a lot of the things the union is talking about,” he said, “but not with every issue.”

 

He said he is concerned that SEIU lacks both “the right to strike ... and binding arbitration.”

 

He said his own union has no right to strike, but is subject to binding arbitration. If contract negotiations break down, both sides of the dispute are required to accept the decision of the arbitrator, he said.

 

“I would be a proponent that they come to an agreement that they agree to binding arbitration. I’m not sure the union would go for that, but I think the management probably would,” he said.

 

Van De Wege said he also is watching to see how the negotiations regarding staffing levels play out, noting those “impact patient care.”

 

Van De Wege said he has not been approached by anyone from OMC management, although, he said, “I would be willing to do anything I can. And I’m not going to go in there and say you need to totally agree with the union. I just think it’s best for the community if this is settled.”

 

Van De Wege said he had called OMC CEO Eric Lewis on several occasions to offer his assistance, but did not receive a phone call in response.

 

Lewis said, “OMC and SEIU have, and will continue to come together and are using the PERC mediation process to do so.”

 


Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

 

 

 
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