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Bellingham PeaceHealth, workers agree on new contract

SEIU union healthcare workers picket outside PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham during a one day strike May 13, 2015. The workers and PeaceHealth have agreed on a contract that will increase wages and gives workers a signing bonus.
SEIU union healthcare workers picket outside PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham during a one day strike May 13, 2015. The workers and PeaceHealth have agreed on a contract that will increase wages and gives workers a signing bonus. The Bellingham Herald

PeaceHealth and the union representing hundreds of workers who went on a 25-hour strike in May have agreed on a contract that will increase workers’ wages 6 percent by fall 2016.

Those were among the provisions of the new agreement that ends Aug. 31, 2017, the union announced Tuesday, June 30.

The employees are members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, which represents support and tech staff totaling up to 900 workers.

Hundreds of workers at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center and its labs went on strike May 13, for one day, saying they were frustrated by stagnating wages, rising health-care costs, and understaffing.

Employees who tried to return to work at the end of the strike were barred from doing so by PeaceHealth, which had hired temporary workers through an agency that they said required a minimum three-day contract.

The labor contract is the first between PeaceHealth and the union, which workers joined in 2013.

“We are very happy. It’s been a long time coming,” said Kari Revelstoke, a lab assistant.

“The contract demonstrates PeaceHealth’s commitment to a competitive wage and benefit package and to working with SEIU as a partner. One thing is clear: Our shared commitment to our mission and to serving our patients never wavered during the negotiation process,” said Dale Zender, PeaceHealth’s president of Hospital Services, Northwest.

PeaceHealth agreed to a 3 percent wage increase for employees upon contract ratification, plus another 3 percent in September 2016. Workers also received a contract signing bonus of $1,000, $500 and $200 for full-time, part-time and per diem workers respectively.

The new agreement also includes premium increases, which are extra pay for work during evenings, weekends and training. PeaceHealth also agreed to a wage scale so workers can count on having some raises based on their years of service, according to Revelstoke.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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