Sparrow Hospital's largest employee union reached a tentative agreement for a three-year contract after more than four months of negotiations and a vote to authorize a strike.
Negotiations with the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital, a part of the Michigan Nurses Association, centered on the union's concerns over health care costs and unsatisfactory wage increases in a previous proposed contract.
"We want to thank the bargaining team from PECSH-MNA for negotiating on behalf of their members and we’re especially grateful to our caregivers for the exceptional care and dedication they provide our patients every day," a statement from Sparrow reads. "Navigating the pandemic for the past 21 months has been challenging for everyone and our caregivers have responded with grace and compassion."
The union represents about 2,300 workers across 53 health care positions, including nurses, pharmacists, laboratory scientists, social workers and therapists.
While full details of the agreement are forthcoming, a statement from the MNA outlines highlights, including:
Significant wage increases "such that an average bedside nurse would see a 20% increase in wages over three years"
No health care premium increases
No cut to sick days
An agreement to reinstate fines on the hospital if nurse-patient ratios rose above severe ratios, a deterrent to unsafe staffing
Guaranteed access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
"I think they finally saw that we really, truly meant business," said Katie Pontifex, a Sparrow nurse and PECSH-MNA president. "And that we were fighting for recruitment and retention efforts that would continue to bring caregivers to us that would better our staffing and our environment for our patients as well. I'm glad to see that at the end of the day, they agreed."
The contract isn't final until PECSH-MNA caregivers vote to approve it, which is expected to happen in the next two weeks. The full details of the agreement will be presented to members at informational sessions before the vote, which requires a plurality of 50 percent and one additional member to adopt the contract.
"It would be extremely unfortunate if our membership did turn it down, but ultimately this is democratic," Pontifex said. "If they do turn it down, that does speak loudly, and we would go back to the table and be there as long as it took to get another agreement."
The union's previous contract expired on Oct. 30. In November, the union held an informational picket outside Sparrow Hospital, authorized a strike vote with 96% approval and filed an unfair labor practice charge against the health system. Pontifex said the union is willing to withdraw the unfair labor practice charge once the contract is ratified, since the goal was to address concerns within the new tentative agreement.
"The day of our (strike) authorization, they got those results, and about six hours later we had a proposal that withdrew their original health insurance proposal," she said. "Those are massive wins for us."
Contact reporter Annabel Aguiar at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @annabelaguiar.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Sparrow nurses union reaches tentative agreement with hospital