Strike vote approved for union workers at Lansing Sparrow Hospital

A strike clearance vote is slated for 2,200 members of Sparrow Health System’s largest collective bargaining unit November 16-21, after months of negotiations began this week.

Staff on the Professional Employee Council at Sparrow Hospital, a Michigan Nurses Association resident, were signed off Oct. 31, saying patient care at the Lansing-based healthcare system that operates seven mid-Michigan hospitals is falling through critically low levels Staffing is at risk.

An “information strike” took place in front of the hospital on November 3, attended by about 1,000 workers who said they were on a contract with higher wages, better health insurance rates, better staffing, and a contractual guarantee for personal protective equipment such as N95 respirators Patients with COVID-19.

The union, which represents 53 worker classifications, including nurses, pharmacists, social workers and therapists at Sparrow, would give 10-day notice before setting a strike date. That means the earliest possible strike date is December 1st – although leaders say a strike could be avoided if a treaty agreement is reached.

“All we ask is a fair contract that will allow us to recruit and retain nurses,” said Katie Pontifex, Nurse at Sparrow Hospital and President of PECSH-MNA. “Although a strike is always the last resort, we are ready to do everything we can to ensure that we can always offer the highest quality of care. We stand up for our patients and our community. “

John Forums, a Sparrow spokesman, said it was “disappointing that (the union) would threaten a strike, especially during a pandemic, especially given Sparrow’s commitment to finding collaborative ways to address staffing challenges while offering caregivers competitive pay and benefits.

“Sparrow Hospital does not want a strike and we believe that nothing we have proposed warrants a strike.”

The hospital system has had more than 20 negotiations with PECSH-MNA since July, Forums said.

“We have come to each session and focused on reaching a contract that is good for caregivers, patients, the community and Sparrow,” said Forums. “Sparow has made several proposals designed to make significant progress towards an agreement, including a 12% wage increase over the proposed three-year contract term.”

In addition, management has suggested:

  • Increase in weekend salaries by more than 200%.
  • Increase the pool of additional swimming nurses.
  • Payment of bonuses for exemplary attendance.
  • Maintenance of all benefits, paid time off, vacation and longevity during the contract period.
  • No increase in health insurance premiums for 2022.

“We believe that contractual matters are best resolved at the negotiating table, and we remain committed to transparent and cooperative negotiations in order to reach a fair settlement,” said Foren.
The next negotiation sessions are scheduled for November 11th, 16th, 17th, 29th, 30th and 1st and 10th December. A federal mediator will join the negotiations from Nov. 16, Forums said.

Kevin Glaza, a pharmacist at Sparrow Hospital and vice president of PECSH-MNA, said union workers just want a fair contract.

“We need fair wages. We need affordable health care. We need a PSA commitment, “said Glaza.

Contact Kristen Shamus: [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.

The Detroit Free Press, Bridge Michigan, and Michigan Radio have teamed up to cover Michigan hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. If you work in a Michigan hospital we’d love to hear from you. You can reach Kristen Jordan Shamus at [email protected], Robin Erb at [email protected] or Kate Wells at [email protected]

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