St. Charles Medical Center nurses announced they will go on strike if a deal is not reached by June 12. It comes after months of negotiating and public displays of frustration from the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) and nurses at Saint Charles.
The ONA and St. Charles both held press conferences Friday morning — once again taking their cases to the public.
“If management is committed to making profits on the backs of healthcare workers and understaffing the hospital so profoundly that it puts our community’s public health in jeopardy, then we will do all that it takes to ensure equity and justice,” president of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Jonathan Baker said.
ONA says St. Charles hasn’t taken the steps needed to recruit and retain more staff.
St. Charles nurse John Nangle says the strike is not centered around a raise for nurses, but compensation packages have to meet Bend’s cost of living.
“Nurses are not able to move here. We’ve had nurses hired at St. Charles, realize they could not afford to live here and leave. This is a basic economic supply and demand issue.”
The hospital recently provided its nurses with a $5 raise, bringing the minimum hourly wage to $45 or nearly $95,000 annually.
St. Charles says their average wage for nurses is $108,000, making it the second-highest in the state.
In a virtual press conference, Chief Operating Officer for St. Charles Iman Simmons said both sides agree on the hospital’s staffing issues.
“St. Charles needs more nurses. We are actively hiring for many positions so that we can fully staff services and we are excited to share that our recruitment efforts are paying off.”
State House Representative Jason Kropf, D-Bend, spoke at the ONA’s press conference in support of the nurses.
“Preparing for a strike is not an action to be taken lightly. I know our nurses are only taking this step in order to not settle for a bad contract that continues the status quo and endangers the health of our community,” Kropf said.
St. Charles says upcoming negotiations will now be overseen by a federal mediator. The hospital says it is a standard in negotiations.
“When we bring a mediator into the negotiating process, it allows us to be a bit more creative. They’re very skilled at doing exactly what their title says: mediating conversations about hard topics,” senior nursing leader with St. Charles Julie Ostrom said.
Two negotiating sessions are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday next week.