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Strike Voted Called Off After Saint John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica and Workers Union Announce Tentative Contract
By Niki Cervantes
November 30, 2017 -- A strike vote scheduled today was called off late Wednesday after the union for workers at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica and the hospital announced a tentative agreement for a new contract had been reached.
Employees will vote on whether to ratify the agreement next week, said Sean Wherley, a spokesperson for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, which represents the estimated 450 Saint John’s employees who were getting ready to decide on a strike vote ("Union Workers at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica to Vote on Possible Strike," November 29, 2017).
Details will be released after the ratification vote by the union’s members.
SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West began representing a wide-range of employees, including nursing assistants and various technicians, last February.
“Providence Saint John's Health Center and the SEIU-UHW reached a tentative agreement late Wednesday night for the hospital’s service and technical workers’ first union contract,” said Patricia Aidem, the hospital’s director of marketing and communication.
“Negotiations lasted less than six months and resulted in an agreement much quicker than most first contract negotiations," she said. "Providence Saint John's is grateful for the commitment to good faith bargaining throughout the negotiations."
The new contract, Aidem said, "is fair to our caregivers and their families, and will enable the hospital to continue providing the highest level of quality care to our patients and community."
Negotiations have centered on the union’s claims of under-staffing and other issues at the hospital, a nonprofit started in 1942 by Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. Today it is run by Providence Health & Services.
The 265-bed hospital at 2121 Santa Monica Boulevard has about 1,700 employees, its website says.
SEIU-UHW West says a survey in September found 47 percent of its workers at said staffing has decreased in their department during the past year.
More than a third indicated understaffing delayed their ability to respond to patient call lights, the union said.
The hospital was also picketed by the union in October ("Union Workers Picket Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica," October 13, 2017).
The tentative agreement comes at a time when hospitals nationwide are cutting staff as they face flat reimbursements and escalating costs, according to STAT, a newsletter that focuses on the nation's $3.4 trillion healthcare industry.
In its 2015 Federal 990 tax-exemption forms, the latest available, the non-profit hospital reported $309.5 million in “functional expenses,” with a net income of $41.2 million, down from $65 million the previous year.
Salaries, wages and benefits -- the single biggest expense -- totaled $111.4 million in 2015, up from $102.2 million the previous year, or 38 percent of all spending.
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