Strike notice filed by union unlawful, Oregon health system says

St. Charles Health System in Bend, Ore., is questioning the legality of a strike notice filed by the union representing 156 technical employees at its Bend hospital campus.

The health system said it is preparing for a strike by members of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, slated to begin at 8 a.m. March 4.  

But it also said it filed two unfair labor practice charges against the union with the National Labor Relations Board because it believes the strike notice was illegal and that the union is not bargaining in good faith.

"The National Labor Relations Act requires that when a first contract is being negotiated the union must provide at least 30-days' notice of the contract dispute to state and federal mediation agencies so the dispute may be resolved without a work stoppage," Rebecca Berry, vice president of human resources for St. Charles, said in a March 1 news release. "As a result, we believe the strike notice is unlawful and the NLRB is now investigating that issue."

Meanwhile, the health system said it also filed a complaint with the court system for injunctive relief to ensure healthcare services are maintained until the issue can be resolved. A hearing related to the injunction request is scheduled in federal court in Eugene, Ore., on March 2.

The health system said the strike could still occur if the injunction is granted, but the issue of the legality of the strike notice will remain before the labor relations board.

In a Feb. 26 statement, the union contended it is following requirements of the National Labor Relations Act and that the correct notification period was followed.

"This is another example of extreme tactics that are intended to frighten St. Charles' employees into submission, something that management often does in an effort to avoid unionization. While this action has been couched in the language of public health, it is a transparent attempt to undermine their own employees' right to collective action," the union said. 

Hospital management and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals have been in negotiations for more than a year but been unable to fully resolve issues, including wage structure and cost-of-living increases, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. The strike notice was filed Feb. 22.  

The union said it plans to move forward with the strike, and the health system said it has contracted with an agency to hire workers to temporarily replace striking ones. St. Charles said it is also asking internal workers who hold technical certifications, but who are not part of the bargaining unit, to help fill hospital shifts. 


More articles on human resources:
Ascension suspends Wisconsin hospital employee after accusation of secretly taping patient
Nurses in California county's health system to strike Feb. 27
University of Chicago Medicine nurses approve first contract

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