St. Charles on Monday said it’s prepared to hire replacement workers as its medical techs plan to strike later this week.
About 150+ medical technicians are set to strike at 8 a.m. on Thursday and the hospital does not expect a resolution before then.
According to a statement from Samuel Potter, a representative with the union, the decision to strike comes following a year of negotiating a first union contract with St. Charles.
A year “where management refused to agree to fair wage and working condition proposals and is stalling on setting reasonable bargaining dates,” he said.
The hospital has filed two unfair labor practice claims against the medical techs’ union, the Oregon Federation of Nurse and Health Professionals, saying “we believe the strike notice was not lawful and the union is not bargaining in good faith.”
“The National Labor Relations Act requires that when a first contract is being negotiated the union must provide at least 30-days’ notice of the contract dispute to state and federal mediation agencies so the dispute may be resolved without a work stoppage,” said Rebecca Berry, vice president of Human Resources for St. Charles. “As a result, we believe the strike notice is unlawful and the NLRB is now investigating that issue.”
On Friday, the hospital workers’ union called the lawsuits “frivolous.”
The union claimed it followed all the requirements of the National Labor Relations Act when it gave the hospital a 10-day notice.
“I’ve talked to four different lawyers who are all very very certain that this case is going to be thrown out of court,” Potter told Central Oregon Daily News on Monday.
Berry said the hospital does not believe the NLRB will reach a decision before the strike date.
Consequently, St. Charles has also filed a complaint for injunctive relief to ensure health care services are maintained until the issue can be resolved.
A hearing is scheduled related to the injunction request in federal court in Eugene at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
If the injection is denied, the strike will move forward, but hospital officials said the issue of the legality of the strike notice will remain before the National Labor Relations Board.
“It is our fundamental mission and responsibility as a health care organization to take care of our community,” said Aaron Adams, president of St. Charles Bend. “Although we believe the strike notice is unlawful, we will proceed with preparations to ensure continued care for our patients.”
Berry said the hospital has “contracted with an outside agency to hire qualified replacement workers and is also asking internal caregivers who hold technical certifications, but who are not part of the bargaining unit, to help fill hospital shifts. The goal is to reduce disruptions to patient care as much as possible.”
“The union has indicated they are striking to get St. Charles to come back to the bargaining table,” Berry said. “We find OFNHP’s reasons for the strike confusing since we already had a bargaining session scheduled for March 10 with a federal mediator. We were also discussing additional, earlier bargaining dates with the mediator prior to receiving the strike notice.”
St. Charles requested a federal mediator to facilitate negotiations in order to speed up the process to reach a final agreement.
“We continue to be unclear as to what OFNHP hopes to accomplish with this strike,” Adams said. “But what we do know is the union’s decision to strike has an impact on our patients, our caregivers, our physicians and our community.”