Possibility of strike looms at ProMedica hospital

Members of the Branch County Independent Nurses Association at ProMedica Coldwater (Mich.) Regional Hospital voted Jan. 18 to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike, radio station WTVB reported Jan. 21. 

The union represents more than 100 members at the hospital, according to the report. ProMedica Coldwater is part of the Toledo, Ohio-based ProMedica system.

Union members have been negotiating with the hospital for months. The previous contract for nurses at the hospital expired on Dec. 31, according to WTVB.  

During talks, ProMedica Coldwater Regional Hospital has been negotiating in good faith, the hospital said in a statement shared with Becker's

"This past week we reached a tentative agreement with the union's bargaining team, which rewarded our nurses while considering the extreme financial challenges PCRH, like so many other hospitals, is facing due to the COVID pandemic fallout. Unfortunately, the union membership did not approve the tentative agreement," the hospital said.

Union president and nurse Mary Osborne contends that nurses feel the hospital is not making adequate enough efforts to retain current and recruit new nurses, which they say has led to staffing shortages, according to WTVB. She also told the radio station that the hospital has been forced to hire traveling nurses as a result of shortages, and that a union survey indicates higher wages being paid for nurses at surrounding hospitals.

The hospital responded in its statement, saying, "ProMedica Coldwater Regional Hospital, like many rural hospitals, has had to deal with a nursing shortage since the pandemic started. We have had a dedicated talent acquisition team working tirelessly to interest nurses in working in Coldwater, and we have a few new hires in progress now."

The hospital also said it has provided nurses with supplemental pay above their negotiated contract in recent years to retain them, has been offering nurses premium pay if they choose to work extra shifts, and has hired agency staff to cover shifts as needed.

Additionally, the hospital said it "has a competitive nursing salary and benefits package for a rural hospital. While some hospitals may focus on slightly higher starting rates, we have a competitive package that rewards employees more consistently over time and encourages employee retention."

The strike authorization vote does not mean nurses will strike. They still must give the hospital 10 days' notice before a strike would occur.

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