On Tuesday, June 7, Swedish responded to many SEIU proposals. A number of the proposals were aimed at bringing the RN, Service and Tech contracts into closer alignment. In addition, there were more substantive proposals from the Union around sick time and breaks, which will continue to be discussed at future sessions as we work toward finding a fair and balanced outcome for all who rely on Swedish – our patients, employees and community.
Some of the topics addressed during today’s bargaining session included:
- Meal and rest periods
- Rest between shifts
- Department openings and transfers
- Annual leave / annual leave scheduling
- Sick time
Both Swedish and the Union have proposals regarding preceptors and the low census fund on the bargaining table.
Swedish is working on its economic proposal, and it is our expectation that the discussion on economics will most likely occur at the next full bargaining session on June 21. The Union’s economic proposal, as presented, adds a significant increase to our labor costs. Swedish is still analyzing the impact of the staffing ratios proposed by the union but anticipates that the staffing proposal will also result in additional and substantial increases in labor costs.
The economics are particularly challenging. Swedish needs to reduce operating expenses by $200 million over the next three years and has asked for SEIU to partner with us on determining where we can reduce their fair share of expenses. Swedish is not proposing base wage cuts, and is committed to remaining a leader in wages and benefits. However, we need to narrow the gap between what Swedish offers in terms of pay and benefits and what other hospitals offer so that we can remain financially stable while still providing leading wages and benefits.
The chart below was created from data submitted by area hospitals to the Washington Department of Health (DOH). Each year, DOH gathers information that compares the percentage of all expenses that are utilized for employee wages and benefits. While there are some differences in terms of what is included in the data from each hospital (i.e. some hospitals, like Virginia Mason, employ all of their physicians, thus increasing their percentage), the average percentage spent on wages and benefits at other local independent hospitals is substantially less than Swedish.
Changes in reimbursement, healthcare reform and the economy have dramatically impacted Swedish’s financial stability. Swedish must make substantial changes this year to ensure that it can continue its tradition of providing quality patient care and leading wages and benefits in the future. In times of economic and industry challenges, we must look for ways to reduce costs, and we ask SEIU to share in the commitment of coming to a fair outcome for all who rely on Swedish.
Subcommittees, including subcommittees on nursing, floating and benefits, will meet on June 14 and 16. A subcommittee for SVNS is also being scheduled. The next full bargaining session is scheduled for Tuesday, June 21. Future bargaining sessions are scheduled for June 28 and 30.
We welcome your feedback. Look for updates in future issues of Negotiation News or online here at www.swedish.org/negotiationnews, where you can learn the latest about the negotiations and ask questions or make comments about the process.