Swedish Medical Center employees end strike, try to return to work

Nurses and caregivers at Swedish Medical Center sites in the Seattle area ended their three-day walkout Jan. 31 and attempted to return to their jobs at Swedish Cherry Hill, Ballard, Issaquah and ambulatory care centers in Redmond and Mill Creek, according to the union that represents them.

The strike of about 7,800 SEIU Healthcare 1199NW members began at 7 a.m. Jan. 28 and ended at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 31. 

During the walkout, Swedish brought in temporary workers to replace striking ones. Hospital officials said contract provisions require a five-day commitment to temporary caregivers, and Swedish workers will be called back to their jobs in accordance with contract provisions as work is available.

"The two-day transition after the strike ... is designed to minimize patient disruption as patient census grows and work becomes available," Swedish added. 

Union leaders said Seattle Mayor Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Sister Helen Brennan of the Sisters of Providence will join workers Jan. 31 as they try to return to their jobs. However, the leaders expect some workers will not be able to return to work for two more days. The union said some workers already have received texts from management instructing them not to report to work Jan. 31. 

Meanwhile, staffing remains a sticking point in the labor dispute between SEIU and Swedish, which also temporarily closed two emergency departments and the labor and delivery unit during the strike, and rescheduled nonemergency and elective surgeries, The Seattle Times reports.

SEIU said there are about 900 vacancies total at Swedish facilities, including about 600 nurse vacancies.

"Our workloads are often overwhelming, and that can put patients at risk," union member Diana Garcia, who works at Swedish Edmonds, said in a news release. "Environmental service technicians are the front line of infection control. We are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting every space of the hospital. This is even more important during flu season and with the coronavirus threat. We've proposed safe workloads, but management has rejected these solutions."

Swedish told the Times the 12 percent vacancy rate at Swedish is due to "just fewer people going to school for nursing and graduating with degrees."

Swedish also told the newspaper its last contract proposal included about 200 new full-time jobs.

Read the full Times report here


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