Negotiations stall between ONA nurses and Providence Medford

MEDFORD, Ore. – 9:00 pm Update: Nurses represented by the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) held an informational picket outside Providence Medford Medical Center (PMMC) after being unable to reach an agreement.

Nurses at PMMC began bargaining with management in January, but their contract expired in March. Caroline Allison, an RN at PMMC, says the hospital doesn’t provide enough for its nurses to be able to stay.

Allison says they were able to make agreements on some aspects, including a new article added about workplace safety, but there are still major sticking points on the negotiation table.

Vicki Knudesen, the PMMC ONA Bargaining Unit Chair, says the nurse turnover rate at PMMC is as high as 43% in some departments.

Knudesen says there are beds in the hospital going unused because there isn’t enough nursing staff to take care of additional patients.

Allison says what PMMC has offered them isn’t enough to lower the turnover rate.

“It just, it wasn’t enough,” Allison said, “We’re not competitive locally, we’re not competitive statewide, so if we took their offer, we’d still be in the same place we are today.”

Allison says nurses at PMMC are held to the exact same standards as every other Providence in Oregon, but they are consistently behind on PTO, pay, and other benefits.

Knudesen says the money PMMC has been paying for turnover and traveling nurses could pay to raise the standards and pay nurses a livable wage.

She says nurses are tired of being overworked and underpaid and they need PMMC to make changes.

Providence’s contract with the ONA expired in late March, but negotiations started well before then.

Providence said they have tentative agreements in place for safety and work schedules, but pay increases are the main sticking point.

Providence said they already offered a 14% wage increase, which would equate to about $7 to $8 more per hour.

But the ONA is asking for a 34% pay increase and Providence said ONA has not made any proposals around economics since mid-March.

Providence Medford’s Chief Nursing Officer Kate Kitchell said, “there is a gap, but we feel confident that we can close it as long as we have participation and movement on both sides. The proposal is in ONA’s court and we are eagerly awaiting a counter-proposal.”

Providence said they like to keep their negotiations local, but have agreed to meet with the ONA in Portland to continue their discussions in June.

Kitchell said they are disappointed the ONA is not willing to discuss anything in the mean time.

Nursing shortages have continued to impact rural communities in recent years, but Providence hopes to stay competitive within the market.

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Former NBC5 News reporter Derek Strom is from Renton, Washington. He recently graduated from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University with a degree in Broadcast News and a minor in Sports Management. He played in the drumline with the WSU marching band. These days, he plays the guitar and piano. Derek is a devoted fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Kraken.
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