Workers at Providence St. Peter Hospital, Olympia, Wash., went on strike Monday morning to protest increased costs to employee health plans.
The 530 striking workers include housekeepers, dietitian technicians and nearly all employees except nurses and doctors. A strike affecting workers at Providence SoundHomecare, also in Olympia, will start on Wednesday. Both strikes are scheduled to last until Saturday morning.
The strike was triggered by changes to the health plan that went into effect Jan. 1, said officials from Service Employees International Union Local No. 1199NW. The changes raise the cost of deductibles by an average of $3,100, union officials said. That's “catastrophic” for affected workers who earn a median salary of about $31,000 a year, the union added.
Providence officials disagreed with the union's assessment over how much deductibles would increase. Providence officials said they've been up-front with the union that health insurance costs could rise, according to a statement (PDF). They said “the net deductible has increased slightly.” It grew from $250 to $450 for individuals and from $750 to $900 for families. System officials stressed the strike won't disrupt patient care.
“The combination of declining healthcare reimbursement and our desire to provide affordable and sustainable health benefits to employees means we must find ways to control our costs,” the statement read. “Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice is offering a fair package of health benefits, a strong retirement plan and competitive wage adjustments.”