Nurses union objects to new attendance policy at Providence St. Mary Medical Center

Registered nurses of Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, Calif., plan to stage an informational picket over a new attendance policy they say will jeopardize the safety of patients, co-workers and the community, according to the union that represents them.

The California Nurses Association, which represents the workers, announced the informational picket Nov. 9. Informational picketing is not a strike but is an action taken by unions to raise awareness about their concerns.

At issue for some St. Mary workers is a new attendance policy that prohibits unauthorized tardiness or absences.

"Under the strain of a nationwide nursing shortage — which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic — Providence St. Mary felt the need to amend its attendance policy. The goal was to help the hospital maintain appropriate staffing levels that ensured safe patient care and while encouraging caregivers to plan their time off," the hospital said in a news release shared with Becker's Hospital Review.

While the policy holds workers responsible for unexcused absences, Providence St. Mary said the hospital will continue to maintain and uphold the sanctity of substantial time off protected under law, such as Family Medical Leave Act, the California Family Rights Act, the California Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act, Kin Care, Workers' Compensation.

St. Mary also encouraged workers to take paid time off when possible, noting that employees accrue PTO each pay period that ranges from 200 to 320 hours annually for full-time employees.

"Providence St. Mary is committed to ensuring patient safety and continuity of care which is why it is paramount to implement procedures — like this attendance policy — that allow enough time to appropriately manage staffing levels," the hospital said.

But the California Nurses Association expressed concerns about the policy, calling it "punitive."

The union contends the policy will not only jeopardize the safety of patients, co-workers and the community, but also hurt nurses' long-term ability to provide high-quality patient care by making nurse recruitment and retainment more difficult.

"Already, nurses have left the hospital to seek work at other facilities where the working conditions and terms are safer and more respectful of the exhausting and intense hands-on care they provide," the union said in a news release.

The informational picket is scheduled for 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Nov. 11. The hospital, part of Renton, Wash.-based Providence, will remain open and be fully staffed during the event.

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