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PNMC nurses ratify contract

Labor news — Nearly a year after voting to unionize, nurses at the local hospital have their first contract

Nurses at Providence Newberg Medical Center have approved their first labor contract since joining the Oregon Nurses Association last year, the union announced last week.

The two-year contract includes 2.5 percent wage increases each year for the 140 registered nurses at PNMC, while also guaranteeing nurses a voice in decision-making about patient care and working conditions through the creation of a task force.

“This is a historic agreement for our community,” nurse leader Valerie Whitmore said in a statement. “Nurses fought to make sure our neighbors can continue counting on us to provide the high-quality care they deserve.”

Whitmore, a 13-year employee at the medical center, took an active role in the effort to unionize PNMC last spring. At that time it was the only non-union facility of the eight Providence facilities in Oregon.

Whitmore described changes at the hospital as it’s grown over the years, particularly feeling less of a voice in the decision-making process and having trouble communicating with management.

“We’ve seen a big shift as we’ve gone from a small community-based hospital to more of a corporate model and a lot of the trends we’re seeing have followed that,” she said during the campaign.

After an effort that lasted several weeks nurses voted almost two-to-one to join the union in May 2015.

PNMC management took issue with some of the nurses’ claims, but once the majority voted in favor, the management said it respects the choice of the nurses to unionize and that the hospital would “seek to make negotiations a tool to unite and not divide.”

Those negotiations began during the fall and continued through April 27, when the PNMC nurses voted to approve the contact. In a release the ONA said nurses and union staff worked more than 550 hours to reach the contract agreement.

Besides wage increases and the creation of a task force, the ONA said the contract allows for variable wage increases to ensure compensation is equitable and is based on nurses’ service and qualifications, rewards nurses who have earned national certification in a specialty of medicine, and more.

Nurses praised the contract for addressing many of the issues that led to unionization in the first place.

“From the beginning we’ve been working to build a culture that puts patients first and ensures all staff are treated with dignity and respect,” intensive care nurse Denise O’Connell said.

PNMC management also issued a brief statement after the union vote.

“We’re glad the contract has been ratified and look forward to working with our nurses as we continue providing outstanding care for our patients,” said Yvonne Kirk, chief nursing and operating officer.

The contract became effective upon passage and will extend through April 2018.