LANSING, Mich. — More than 2,000 nurses and other medical workers at Sparrow Health System voted in favor of walking off the job and onto the picket line if contract negotiations don’t improve soon.
The Professional Employees Council of Sparrow Hospital, which is part of the Michigan Nurses Association has been trying to hash out a new contract for its members since the summer. The old contract expired at the end of October.
This week, the union announced that 96 percent of its members voted to approve going on strike if necessary.
Some of the sticking points in the contract negotiations include wages and safe staffing levels.
“Our caregivers are being forced to take care of a higher number of patients than is safe. We just need a good proposal for recruiting and retaining,” said union member and contract negotiator Kevin Glaza.
However, hospital officials say they're offering more than fair compensation
A statement from Sparrow says in part that, “Sparrow is intent on working out a fair and equitable contract with the union. Working through the mediator we were able to identify the structure of a deal in which the health system would provide an unprecedented compensation package to our nurses and other healthcare professionals.”
Under the terms of the proposal, workers would see their annual wages increase by anywhere between $11,000 and $22,000 by the end of a three-year contract
Union leaders say the proposal is a start but needs to be tweaked.
“They did not talk about guaranteeing PPE for us. The wage package they presented is less than the current cost of living. They are really trying to reduce the number of days where we can call in sick,” Glaza said.
With COVID rates rising across the state, Sparrow says the health system does not want a strike as that would hurt everyone including the community.
Union leaders agree.
“Obviously nobody wants a strike. Its just another tool in our toolbox to use if our negotiations stall,” Glaza said.
Glaza said there are three more sessions scheduled between Sparrow and the union next week. There is no deadline to call off talks and go on strike.
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