Health unions back vaccines and want mandates negotiated in contract negotiations
Unions that represent tens of thousands of nurses and other caregivers statewide support Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate released on Monday, but they want the new requirements negotiated as part of contract negotiations.
The vaccine mandates have put health unions in a difficult position: they are strong supporters of vaccines but have a duty to represent the interests of all their members, including those who do not want to be vaccinated.
Last week, MultiCare and Providence, which operate all Spokane County hospitals, announced they would require vaccinations for employees.
The Washington State Nurses Association, which represents nurses at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, sent Spokane’s largest hospital a cease and desist letter, saying such a policy required negotiations with the union before it was implemented. work.
At the same time, the WSNA strongly encourages nurses to get vaccinated. In a statement to its members at Sacré-Coeur, the nurses union said the new vaccination policy involves hours, wages and working conditions and is subject to negotiation like any other policy change involving similar conditions. .
Providence, which also operates Holy Family Hospital and clinics across the region, intends to move forward with implementing its new vaccination policy in line with Inslee’s mandate, a statement said. published Monday.
“We fully support Governor Inslee’s decision and look forward to working with our organized labor partners to ensure that every healthcare worker in Washington complies with these new requirements,” a statement from Providence said.
MultiCare, which owns the Deaconess and Valley hospitals as well as the Rockwood clinics, also plans to work with its unions to implement the mandate.
“MultiCare is engaging with unions representing our employees to share information and discuss the impacts of the governor’s order and MultiCare’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement,” said a statement from the supplier.
A letter from unions representing healthcare workers read: “We strongly support immunization as the best way to save the lives of patients, their families and members of our communities. At the same time, we fully expect employers to negotiate with us on this change in working conditions. “
Inslee said the requirement is a binding condition of employment for the employees it affects.
“We have an obligation to negotiate the impacts of this decision and if the unions want to have this discussion, we will have discussions with the union representatives,” he said at a press conference on Monday. “It is clearly within the capacity and the necessity from a life and security perspective to make this a requirement. We have thousands of safety rules in the books.
Prior to Inslee’s announcement on Monday, some providers, especially in the long-term care industry, were reluctant to mandate vaccinations due to understaffing and fear of losing workers.
With hospital capacity as tight as it has been for months and with the increase in hospitalizations linked to COVID, staff shortages are leading some regions to seek help from the state. The unions echoed those concerns on Monday.
“We are facing an extraordinary staffing crisis in our hospitals and continue to advocate for reasonable timelines and options for frequent testing as well as masking, as required in all health facilities, for those who are not vaccinated.” , indicates the press release of the health unions. . “These provisions mirror those included in mandates from other states that allow healthcare workers to stay on the job to care for all of us during this ongoing crisis. We also know that while vaccines are incredibly effective, they are not a substitute for PPE, universal masking, or other infection control measures. We will continue to demand universal access to N95 masks and push employers to improve ventilation in facilities where necessary. “
Details such as how the mandate will affect staffing, how it will be enforced, and whether or not employees will be compensated or housed for vaccinations will be determined through impact negotiation, according to the governor’s office.
“Impact negotiation means that while the decision is within the authority of the employer, the impacts on how that decision is implemented are subject to the obligation to negotiate,” said Mike Faulk, Door – speech from the governor’s office, in an e-mail.
SR reporter Laurel Demkovich contributed to this report.