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Health care workers set to begin 5-day strike at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank

In the latest strike to hit a Southland hospital in recent weeks, some 700 non-nursing healthcare workers at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank are set to begin a five-day, unfair-labor practice walkout Monday over what their union calls “bad faith bargaining and other illegal tactics meant to silence workers.”

Meanwhile, a statement Sunday from Providence Southern California said the walkout would have “no impacts” on patient care, and comes after “our best efforts to engage in meaningful dialogue at the bargaining table,” along with the offer of “significant wage increases.”

“The union has offered unrealistic counterproposals in response and has chosen to strike instead of continue with good-faith negotiations,” the hospital statement said.

The employees — including lab technicians, phlebotomists, EMTs, patient transporters, EVS workers and others — are set to hit the picket lines beginning at 6 a.m. Monday and continue their walkout until Friday, according to the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West union.

Providence said Sunday it has contracted with replacement workers to fill in for striking union members.

Specific union concerns, according to an SEIU-UHW statement, include “longstanding issues of understaffing, worker turnover and patient care concerns.”

The union, which gave a 10-day notice last week of its intended strike, said it is taking the “last resort” action after months of bargaining.

An SEIU-UHW spokeswoman, Maria Leal, said contract talks broke off after the sides’ last bargaining session on Oct. 13. The union’s contract expired on Aug. 5, and the sides began talks in June, Leal said.

“We are being intimidated and threatened for wanting to improve our hospital, while Providence executives bargain in bad faith over solutions to our short-staffing crisis,” Christian Ayon, a lead surgical technician at Providence St. Joseph, said in a statement released by the union.

“This used to be a premier hospital, but we are struggling to give the quality care our patients deserve as we watch staff leave and positions go unfilled. We fight not just for ourselves but for our patients that depend on us.”

Providence officials said Sunday they have offered the union “what we believe is a very generous package with significant wage increases” — including a 24% wage increase over a three-year contract and market wage adjustments for many jobs.

Addressing the union’s charge that patient care has suffered, the hospital statement said, “If there are incidents of unsafe conditions or poor quality care, the law requires that they be reported and investigated by the appropriate government agencies. That has not happened. In fact, just three months ago, the U.S. agency that oversees hospital quality ranked Providence Saint Joseph among the top 17.3% in the nation for overall quality.”

The Providence statement went on to say, “The union has also accused hospital management of engaging in bad faith bargaining and other illegal tactics, including silencing workers. Providence Saint Joseph is committed to respectful discourse and urges caregivers to report concerns in a variety of ways, including via an anonymous integrity hotline.”

Providence acknowledged high turnover rates since the pandemic, but said, “We have aggressively recruited and continue to do so, providing bonuses to caregivers who refer qualified candidates and to those hired in certain positions.”

“It is public record that Providence Saint Joseph and many other hospitals and health organizations continue to suffer financially, post-pandemic,” the hospital statement said.

The Providence strike follows a three-day walkout over many of the same issues by some 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers from several states, including California, from Oct. 4-6. The sides in that dispute announced a tentative four-year agreement on Oct. 13.

Workers at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood also walked off the job for five days from Oct. 9-13.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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