SPOKANE, Wash. - Nurses with Providence Sacred Heart say it's been a long and difficult year of negotiations and a strike will happen if a fair contract doesn't. The hospital said they believe what's been offered is fair, but nurses disagree.
Stevie Lynne Krone said she feels the weight of her fellow Sacred Heart nurses on her shoulders. She's both a nurse and a member of the contract negotiation team between the Washington State Nurses Association and Providence Sacred Heart. She said she hoped it wouldn't come to this point.
"We're not asking for more," Krone said. "We're asking to maintain our benefits and have adequate staffing and better working conditions."
Krone said there are many dividing topics in the negotiations. Some big ones have to do with a change to sick time policies and having to give up their earned paid time off. According to a statement from Providence Sacred Heart, the new short-term disability plan would offer "65 percent of income replacement for up to 25 weeks with no pre-existing condition exclusions."
Krone said the nurses are expected to take paid time off, which can be used for things like illnesses, vacations and emergencies to make up the other 35 percent. She says the proposition will impact their families.
"A lot of these nurses, they have families they want to take care of," Krone said. "They have earned benefits they have accrued over a number of years in order to take care of themselves, or their children, or their mothers and fathers. Providence wants to take that away from them."
Krone said voting "yes" to authorize a strike sends a powerful message, because the nurses involved won't get any pay or benefits as long as the strike is in effect. She said they love what they do and the decision was not made lightly.
"After the strike authorization vote it was both sad to know we had to come to that point, but it was amazing to see the [nurses'] unity," Krone said. "They're willing to say no more takeaways."
The strike will impact both nurses and patients. Sacred Heart Hospital said they "won't speculate on what-ifs," but the hospital has a plan in place if and when the strike takes effect. Krone said her understanding is that the hospital will likely bring in traveling nurses. She said there is not a firm strike date in place as of November 1, and they will give the hospital a 10 day notice before it takes effect.
Negotiation teams on both sides of the table are working to set up another meeting date.