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Tentative contract agreement reached at Providence St. Mary

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Providence St. Mary Medical Center

Providence St. Mary Medical Center

Providence St. Mary Medical Center and United Food and Commercial Workers 21, which represents 300 local nurses there, have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract, both sides said this morning.

The marathon negotiation session started Thursday, stretched over night and into the early hours this morning as the two sides reached the provisional agreement just a week after 13,000 nurses and other healthcare workers across Washington had braced for a strike.

The preliminary agreement will be recommended by UFCW 21 to its members for ratification. That vote will take place Jan. 23 or 24, the announcement from St. Mary said.

“We are very pleased to have reached this tentative agreement. It is a credit to the thoughtful work done by those at the bargaining table,” said Yvonne Strader, St. Mary’s chief nursing officer, in a prepared statement. “This is complex work, and we would like to thank the community for its patience.”

Similar progress was made early this morning in negotiations at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia and Providence Centralia Hospital, labor representatives said.

At the time of this morning’s announcement, “ongoing intensive negotiations” continued with SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and Providence in the hope a tentative agreement will soon be reached.

The negotiations have made massive strides since just over one week ago about 13,000 nurses and health care workers, represented by three unions, were prepared to start the 10-day countdown for a large-scale strike of Providence operations across the state.

Unity of the labor representatives, which also include the Washington State Nurses Association, was credited with the breakthrough on the strike postponement, the organizations said.

A joint bargaining session with the three and the employer helped lead to the first significant progress in months, the announcement said.

A tentative agreement with registered nurses from WSNA at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane early this week was followed within 24 hours by a tentative agreement with UFCW 21 service and maintenance workers there. Provisional agreements followed within another 24 hours of that at Providence Holy Family Hospital’s service and maintenance workers and two more bargaining units at Providence Medical Center in Everett.

Labor representatives said the tentative agreements “represent advances for patient care and safety and improvement of workplace conditions.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.