Providence nurses to rally at Oregon headquarters over paid leave

Amid contract negotiations, nurses plan to rally Jan. 20 at Providence's Oregon headquarters in Portland to call for improved paid family and sick leave standards. 

The rally by members of the Oregon Nurses Association is scheduled before Oregon's new paid family and medical leave program fully takes effect. 

On Jan. 1, employees and employers began paying into Paid Leave Oregon, according to the program website. On Sept. 3, employees can begin applying for benefits, which include up to 12 weeks of paid time off to workers annually for the birth of a child, to care for themselves when they are seriously ill or injured; or if they are experiencing critical situations such as domestic violence.

Before the law takes full effect, Providence workers are calling on hospital leaders to negotiate higher standards, the union said in materials shared with Becker's. For example, the union is asking Providence to pay 100 percent of nurses' wages while on leave and ensure market standards are met for total hours of accrued paid time off in contracts.

"Oregon's Paid Family and Medical Leave Law is a minimum; Providence must negotiate with union members over the benefit and any changes it could create to our current benefit structures," the union said. "Our power remains with the irreplaceable value of our nurses' work, and our union intends to make improvements through the strength of ONA caregivers."

Providence, which has system offices in Renton, Wash., and Irvine, Calif., told Becker's, "We're proud of the fact that Providence's short-term disability plan is market competitive and paid leave benefits in our Oregon ministries are among the highest in the state.

"While the state of Oregon's leave plan mandates a minimum amount of paid leave, all eligible employees at our Providence Oregon ministries, including those where a short-term disability program was negotiated with the union, receive up to 25 weeks of paid time away — more than double the state plan. Our paid leave program offers, among other things, longer coverage paid fully by Providence."

Nurses at three Providence facilities in Oregon — Providence Portland, Providence Home Health and Hospice and Providence Seaside — are working under an expired contract, according to the Oregon Nurses Association. The union said several other units are also nearing expiration and already in or preparing to enter negotiations, including Providence Newberg and ProvRN (advice line nurses).

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