Three-year agreement reached between Olympic Medical Center, Service Employees International Union

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Nearly 400 nurses, service workers and dietary employees at Olympic Medical Center will get a 1 percent annual raise for the next three years under a new agreement that the hospital settled with its largest union.

OMC commissioners voted 7-0 in a special meeting Monday to approve new contracts with Service Employees International Union 1199.

In addition to the 1 percent general wage increase, dietary workers will get a onetime market adjustment raise of 2.5 percent this year.

Union members ratified the contracts last week.

SEIU locked horns with OMC over health care benefits and staffing levels in 2011 and 2012.

The union threatened an 18-hour walkout in August 2011, picketed the hospital and filed an unfair-labor-practices complaint, which was amended before the sides settled in April 2012.

There were no such fireworks in this year’s contract talks.

“The tone during negotiations was positive and professional, and resulted in fair and equitable contracts for our SEIU-represented employees,” said Richard Newman, OMC chief human resources officer, in a statement.

“We appreciate the hard work of the SEIU bargaining team and all they do to support our patients and provide excellent health care delivery every day.”

In the Monday board meeting, Newman said the negotiations were fact-based and frank.

“The original proposals from SEIU were reasonable,” Newman said.

“They were well thought out. We had, as always, a couple of questions, and OMC presented some mostly language cleanup in the contract.”

He added: “It was a very good back-and-forth, almost a conversation, as opposed to past experience.”

OMC Chief Executive Officer Eric Lewis said the negotiations focused on patients and the community.

“Each side brought up issues, and we both listened and really came up with some win-win solutions,” Lewis said.

SEIU 1199 has 378 employees at OMC. It is the largest union, by 26 workers, in a public hospital district that employs more than 1,100.

Jeana Hutton, a registered critical care nurse at OMC and SEIU negotiator, said the union “couldn’t be more pleased” with the tone of the negotiations and result of the settlement.

“Everyone on both sides was interested in repairing the relationship,” Hutton added.

“We were all very interested in having a peaceful, cohesive agreement.”

The agreement combined contracts for service employees and dietary workers. A second contract was settled for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses.

OMC’s last agreement with SEIU expired Feb. 28. The new contracts are effective March 1.

The onetime shift in the dietary workers’ pay scale will cost the hospital district about $10,000 annually, Lewis said.

“I think it’s something we can afford, and it was definitely market-based,” Lewis said.

“Our dietary workers had fallen behind market, and I think both SEIU and OMC wanted to do a catch-up.”

Newman said the market adjustment ensures that entry-level dietary workers will earn at least $10 an hour.

Commissioner Jim Leskinovitch commended staff and SEIU for working together on the settlement.

“OMC is really struggling, as you all well know, and to have constructive, positive negotiations as we did this year is just great,” Leskinovitch said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 11. 2014 7:12PM
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