Swedish Strengthens Package to SEIU 1199NW with Higher Wage Increases, $0 Premium Medical Plan and New Childcare Benefit
December 30, 2019
Swedish brought a strong new package of proposals to the bargaining table with SEIU 1199NW today, including a 5.5% pay increase by July 1, 2020, and a $750 per-person ratification bonus, to avert the possibility of a strike.
“We are dedicated to our caregivers and dedicated to patient safety. Throughout this process, we have listened to their concerns. This new package reflects our commitment to providing them outstanding benefits and our desire to settle contract negotiations at the bargaining table,” said Swedish Chief Nursing Officer Margo Bykonen.
“We are proud that these proposals continue our longstanding support of our caregivers,” Bykonen continued. “Nurses at Swedish, on average, earn over $96,000 annually. We are committed to providing wages and benefits to make sure Swedish remains a leader among health care employers in the Puget Sound region.”
Enhancements offered today at the bargaining table include the following:
- Wages: Higher annual wage increases, including a total 5.5% pay increase by July 1, 2020, that consists of a 3% across-the-board wage increase upon ratification and an additional 2.5% increase in July 2020. Swedish also offered a $750 ratification bonus (prorated for caregivers below 0.9 FTE) and a new opportunity to earn additional pay incentives based on quality and patient care. Swedish is offering a four-year wage package that is equivalent to or better than agreements SEIU recently settled with other local health care providers.
- Medical benefits: The new package includes a $0 premium medical plan for full-time caregivers – and their covered family members – who make up to $60,000 in yearly income at Swedish. These caregivers would also receive a $250 FSA contribution each year. Depending on who a caregiver covers, those eligible will save between $850 and $3,000 in yearly premiums. Swedish already offers one of the most affordable medical plans among employers in this market. Its Medical Plan Assistance Program will continue to provide $0 premiums on the PPO plan for full- and part-time caregivers with household income up to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is currently $64,375 for a family of four, and 50% of the premium for caregivers with household income up to 400% of the FPL, which is $103,000 for a family of four.
- Short-term disability benefit: Starting in 2021, this benefit, coordinated with the new state Family and Medical Leave Act, will cover 100% of a caregiver’s pay for the first eight weeks (after a seven-day waiting period) and two-thirds of salary for up to 17 more weeks, to ensure caregivers have six month of income protection in the event of their own illness or injury.
- Time-off benefits: Swedish’s proposal would shift to a new time-off benefits program that includes paid time off (PTO), an industry standard, and a Swedish-paid short-term disability and paid parental leave benefit. Under this proposed program, there would be no expiration date for using accrued sick leave.
- Staffing: In partnership with SEIU, we are proposing to create a joint task force focused on recruiting qualified caregivers to fill current vacancies and career opportunities for current caregivers to increase their skills.
- Diversity and inclusion: Swedish has committed to hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, with a caregiver selected by SEIU involved in the selection process.
- Child and elder care: Swedish offered a new back-up child and elder care benefit through Bright Horizons for caregivers who have responsibilities at home caring for children or aging family members.
Staffing continues to be a top concern for both Swedish and the union. A significant shortage of qualified health care professionals has impacted providers across the country and Swedish is no exception with more than 900 open union-represented positions. To address this shortage, Swedish is proposing to partner directly with SEIU to convene an intensive series of discussions in January 2020 focused on recruiting and retaining qualified candidates and building the current workforce through professional development pathways.
Swedish is hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the union at the bargaining table. To that end, Swedish has offered to pay up to 750 additional hours to cover the time of caregivers who participate in these sessions on behalf of the union. A strike would be counterproductive and undermine the momentum we are working to build at the bargaining table. We remain optimistic that a strike can be avoided through good-faith negotiations by both parties.
Swedish and the union have been engaged in bargaining since April 2019. The union represents 8,000 of Swedish’s nurses, technical, service and professional staff.
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Founded in 1910, Swedish is the largest non-profit health provider in the Greater Seattle area. It is composed of five hospital campuses (First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard, Edmonds and Issaquah); ambulatory care centers in Redmond and Mill Creek; and a network of more than 100 primary care and specialty-care clinics located throughout the Greater Puget Sound area. Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing specialized treatment in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer care, neuroscience, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, pediatric specialties, organ transplantation and clinical research. In 2018, Swedish provided more than $237 million in community benefit programs, including $23.8 million in free and discounted care in Western Washington.
Tiffany Moss, Swedish