ROCHESTER, Mich. (FOX 2) - Nurses and radiology technologists at Ascension Providence Rochester are taking to the picket line Monday morning.
The members of the OPEIU Local 40 union voted to authorize the strike that will be held through Thursday, citing a lack of contract negotiation progress and alleged illegal activity. Negotiations have been ongoing since last year, and the union says its members haven't gotten raises in several years.
OPEIU Local 40 also requested that Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald investigate the hospital. The union alleges that the hospital locked out its nurses and radiology techs while planning to bring in strikebreakers from an out-of-state firm.
"Regardless of the planned duration of the strike, we are contractually required to commit to a minimum of four days of work for any registered nursing and radiology technologist staff replaced, starting from the first day of a strike. Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital represented registered nurses and radiology technologists will be temporarily replaced starting the first day of the strike," the hospital said of this in its contingency plan.
The union also says the hospital has participated in recessive bargaining and hasn't provided relevant negotiation information.
Several unfair labor practice cases against the hospital are currently being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
"It is our hope that this situation serves as a wake-up call to the administration, urging them to reevaluate their priorities and actively address the concerns raised by those advocating for patients’ safety and protections. The well-being of the patients should always be at the forefront of any healthcare institution, and it is high time that the administration aligns their actions with this essential principle and core Catholic Values," said Dina Carlisle, the OPEIU regional vice president and Local 40 president.
FOX 2 was directed to the hospital's strike contingency plan when we reached out to Ascension Providence Rochester for a statement:
"Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 40 has issued Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital a notice of intent to strike indicating the registered nurses (RNs) and radiology technologists it represents will conduct a three-day strike starting at 7:00 a.m. on Monday, September 11, 2023, and concluding at 6:59 a.m. on Thursday, September 14, 2023.
"As a ministry of the Catholic Church, we affirm the right of our associates to organize themselves through union representation and participate in a work stoppage event. However, we are disappointed that OPEIU has made the decision to proceed with a three-day strike, especially given the economic and logistical hardship this will present for our associates and their families, and the questions and concerns this action may cause our patients and their loved ones. Patient safety is our top priority, and Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital is well prepared to remain open and care for our patients during this short-term strike. We have a comprehensive contingency plan in place to ensure there is no disruption in care or service for those we are privileged to serve.
"Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital is following national best practice for contingency planning that is compliant with The Joint Commission, OSHA and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In order to fulfill our commitment to uninterrupted quality care for our patients, we have contracted with a staffing agency that specializes in work stoppage events and will provide us access to a full complement of highly skilled, credentialed registered nurses and radiology technologists.
"Regardless of the planned duration of the strike, we are contractually required to commit to a minimum of four days of work for any registered nursing and radiology technologist staff replaced, starting from the first day of a strike. Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital represented registered nurses and radiology technologists will be temporarily replaced starting the first day of the strike on Monday, September 11, 2023, and will be able to return to their scheduled shifts beginning the morning of Friday, September 15, 2023, as soon as our replacement agency contractual obligation is fulfilled.
"Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital would prefer not to have to use these extended contracted services, particularly given the current financial challenges the healthcare industry, including our ministry, is facing. However, we must make every provision to ensure the health and safety of our patients, families, providers and associates.
"Our hospital has been bargaining in good faith with OPEIU to come to mutually beneficial agreements on contracts that respect the human dignity and rights of all. At the last RN contract bargaining session, our bargaining team presented a final offer to OPEIU that includes an RN wage proposal with an average wage increase of more than 19% in the first year, as well as a nearly 15% increase to the maximum pay rate. Our current radiology technologist wage proposal also includes an average wage increase of more than 19% in year one. These are the largest wage increases our hospital has ever offered for the first year of an RN or radiology technologist contract. Both wage proposals also include additional wage increases for each of the remaining years of the respective contracts.
"As we focus on preparations to ensure the health and safety of our patients, families, providers and associates during OPEIU’s short-term strike event, Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital will concurrently honor upcoming scheduled bargaining sessions on September 6, September 11 and September 18, 2023, for the RN contract, as well as September 6 and September 28, 2023, for the radiology technologist contract."