MNA members at Sparrow hospital vote to authorize strike, Sparrow responds with new compensation proposal

Members of the Professional Employee Council of Sparrow Hospital of Michigan Nurses Association (PECSH-MNA) have overwhelmingly voted to give the negotiating team the ability to call a strike if demands to the Sparrow Health System are not met. According to MNA, 96% of the 2,200 members voted “yes” on the strike authorization vote. 

In response, Sparrow Health System announced a new proposal for PECSH-MNA to increase compensation with no changes to health care benefit plans or caregiver premium co-share. 

 

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PECSH-MNA held an informational picket outside Sparrow Hospital in Lansing earlier this month to highlight poor staffing conditions, lack of needed personal protective equipment (PPE), and Sparrow’s refusal to increase wages to match inflation. Members are also calling for affordable health care benefit plans, the ability to call in sick without repercussions, and the implementation of programs to recruit and retain more health care professionals. 

Katie Pontifex, registered nurse (RN) and president of PECSH-MNA, said:

“We have been clear from the start about what nurses and healthcare professionals need, but Sparrow executives don’t seem to take us seriously. After almost two years of pouring our hearts and souls into working during this pandemic, we can’t stand by and watch as the staffing crisis gets worse and compromises care for more patients. While no one wants a strike, PECSH-MNA members stand ready to do what it takes. Sparrow executives need to get serious about recruiting and retaining nurses and healthcare professionals so we can provide the best care possible to our patients and community.”

According to MNA, the strike vote passed despite an active campaign by Sparrow to discourage members from authorizing it by threatening to cut benefits and replace strikers. 

Currently, all members have been working without a contract since Oct. 31 and the negotiation team has yet to reach an agreement with Sparrow executives. MNA said Sparrow has not cited an inability to pay as a reason to not raise wages or provide affordable health plans to members. 

Kevin Glaza, a pharmacist and vice president of PECSH-MNA, said:

“We all understand that authorizing a strike is a serious matter, and it’s the last thing we want. We cannot allow Sparrow executives to bully us into a contract that won’t improve staffing, won’t keep up with the cost of living, makes it hard for us to afford health care and punishes us when we are sick. The status quo continuing to deteriorate for the next three years is the worst-case scenario for our community. We are willing to sacrifice our paychecks and walk the picket line in order to protect our patients.”

On Nov. 22—when the vote was announced—Sparrow and PECSH-MNA entered more negotiations with a federal mediator, which they brought on last week. John Foren, director of media relations at Sparrow, said the health system entered the negotiations intent on building on the positive momentum they saw last week.

“Sparrow is intent on working out a fair and equitable contract with the union and we are encouraged by the progress we’ve seen since working with the federal mediator. The two sides are currently discussing proposals at the bargaining table.”

Sparrow announced a new proposal on Nov. 22 with revised pay and benefit plans that “provides best-in-class compensation to our caregivers,” said Foren. PECSH-MNA has yet to respond to this proposal.

Under the new proposal, nurses—currently at step nine on the pay scale ($37 per hour)—would see their base wage rise by $7.04 per hour, or 19%, by the end of the 3-year contract. This would increase their yearly income by $13,000. For a clinical lab scientist—currently receiving $34.04 per hour—their base wage would increase by $5.33 per hour, or 15%, by the end of the contract. 

Sparrow has also proposed the following increases in shift differentials:

 

Image: Sparrow Health System

 

Foren said:

“The proposal reflects Sparrow’s continuing commitment to the negotiation process and the progress being made under the guidance of the mediator … It also shows the value we place in our caregivers, who have distinguished themselves nationally with grace and compassion during the worst health crisis of our lifetime.”

PECSH-MNA will give 10-days notice to Sparrow if a strike is called.