Two unions have joined together to push back against what they feel is an unfair demand in the St. Charles Health System payroll error debacle.
The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), unions that make up around 1,350 St. Charles employees, launched a petition Thursday that they hope will push the hospital to make a move.
Earlier this month, St. Charles revealed what they say is around $2 million of overpayments to employees due to payroll processing errors. It was brought on when their workforce management company Kronos was hacked late last year. It forced the hospital to conduct its payroll method by hand.
The hospital requested the money back, but union representatives from ONA and OFNHP said they didn’t provide adequate documentation about the money owed.
“None of the nurses at these hospitals that are getting demands for repayment can trust that St. Charles has done the math,” said ONA Director of Communications Scott Palmer. “When you get a bill for $1,400 and there’s no explanation on how they arrived at that amount, would you just turn around and write them a check? You would probably ask for some documentation.”
The unions’ petition reads in full:
“We, the employees of the St. Charles Health System, no longer have confidence in our employer’s accounting and payroll practices due to the litany of errors claimed to have been made within the past year. We will not agree on any repayment plans for alleged overpayment by St. Charles unless and until a third-party independent audit has been conducted which proves overpayments occurred, including the specific dates and amounts of the overpayment(s) in question. Should St. Charles seek recoupment of alleged overpayment through payroll deduction without express permission, we will seek any and all remedies, legal and otherwise.”
They believe the audit would ensure accuracy in the amounts they’re being asked to repay.
“They are not opposing paying what they owe, it’s about perhaps paying something that they don’t owe,” said Shane Burley, the Communications Organizer for the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. “And that this wasn’t taken care of in advance, and it’s also putting the burden on working class frontline healthcare workers to solve this problem when it’s not one they created.”
Some nurses reported receiving post-it notes with the amounts they allegedly owe written on them.
“I’m hearing everywhere from $300 to $7,000, $8,000 dollars,” Burley said. “We’re talking about throwing someone into immense amounts of debt suddenly without providing the correct documentation that that debt has actually been accrued. So that’s why we’re so concerned that all these frontline healthcare workers are suddenly going to be given thousands of dollars of bills that they weren’t anticipating, and weren’t their fault necessarily.”
“At this point we’re prepared to do pretty much anything to make it clear that we’re not going to just roll over and accept this,” Palmer said. “We’ve been telling them for weeks that this is a nightmare. We don’t understand how they arrived at these numbers. Show us the proof.”
The unions had not yet heard from St. Charles about their petition on Thursday.
Central Oregon Daily News reached out to St. Charles for a comment, but received no response.
“We will continue to push with the petition, we’re also considering engaging in legal action, and we’ve already submitted a complaint to the Bureau of Labor and Industries around this, and we’ll continue to do whatever we have to do to stop them from these unreasonable demands,” Palmer added.
As of Thursday morning, union representatives said the petition had received around 700 signatures.
They believe the two unions working together will help send a message.
“It shows a lot of unity that people across different professions in the hospital are all kind of coming together on this,” Burley said. “We know it affects a lot of different people in the hospital and I think it shows that we’re all willing to solve these problems together.”
They say the hospital gave them a deadline of Aug. 29 to figure out a way to repay the funds.