Advance Notice: Briefs

Sparrow, union caregivers reach tentative contract deal

By: - December 3, 2021 12:56 pm

Sparrow Hospital workers call for fairer pay and better benefits during an “informational picket.” | Anna Gustafson

A tentative agreement has been reached between Lansing-based Sparrow Hospital and contract negotiations with its 2,300 Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital (PECSH) caregivers, averting a possible strike that had been authorized last month.

Bargainers at PESCH, a local subset of the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA), said Friday that they met with the Sparrow administration four days this week to strike a deal. Contract negotiations have been ongoing since the previous contract ran out on Oct. 31, and collective bargaining has been ongoing for more than four months.

The union has been pushing back against what they criticize as an “aggressively anti-union approach” from Sparrow executives, while working for a better contract that would include fairer pay and benefits along with safer working conditions.

Just last week, the MNA had levied a charge of unfair labor practice against the hospital for union-busting tactics.

Michigan’s hospitals are once again being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients as the state battles yet another surge of the virus.

The tentative 3-year contract tentatively agreed on Friday would include:

  • Significant wage increases over the life of the contract, such that an average bedside nurse would see a 20% wage increase over three years
  • No increases in healthcare premiums over the course of the contract and no reduction in sick days for caregivers
  • A return to the safe staffing process Sparrow had stopped following at the start of negotiations
  • Contractually guaranteed access to appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

“We truly believe that this contract will make a difference for caregivers working at our hospital, for the patients we serve, and for our community as a whole,” said Katie Pontifex, a Sparrow nurse and president of PECSH-MNA. “We are really proud of the solidarity shown by caregivers in advocating for our patients and our community.”

PECSH members — who include nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and therapists, among others — will be given full details next week during informational meetings, followed by a ratification vote for or against the agreement sometime within the next two weeks.

In a statement Friday, Sparrow said it is pleased to reach the tentative deal and is “especially grateful to our caregivers for the exceptional care and dedication they provide our patients every day.

“… We will build on the momentum that began prior to these negotiations to recruit and retain top talent across our units; continue supplying our caregivers with all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe; offer competitive wages and benefits; and implement attendance and staffing policies to ensure our caregivers and patients receive the support they deserve,” the statement continued.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.