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Sparrow's unionized healthcare workers reach tentative agreement with hospital

Sparrow caregivers picket outside the main hospital in Lansing to secure a new contract that includes better working conditions. The union contract expired October 30.
Kevin Lavery
Sparrow caregivers picket outside the main hospital in Lansing to secure a new contract that includes better working conditions on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. The union contract expired October 30.

A tentative agreement has been reached between unionized healthcare workers and Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital. The new three-year contract averts a possible strike.

After months of negotiations, the bargaining team for the Professional Employees Council of Sparrow Hospital reached a tentative agreement Thursday evening. This comes weeks after workers voted to authorize a strike if a new contract wasn’t reached.

Katie Pontifex, the president of the union, says the contract won’t be official until the union approves it in a vote.

"We were able to have the employer see what was important to us, and what would really put us back in a good position to build [Sparrow Hospital] up again to the great place that it can be, and we’re really excited to see what the future holds," she said.

Pontifex says the agreement involves wage raises, no increases in healthcare premiums for workers, and a reduction in the number of patients workers must care for in a single shift.

“We have a return to our safe staffing process that Sparrow just kind of unilaterally stopped following at the start of negotiations back in August," she said. "And we have a contractually guaranteed access to personal protective equipment now.”

Sparrow says they are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement.

"Navigating the pandemic for the past 21 months has been challenging for everyone and our caregivers have responded with grace and compassion," said John Foren, Sparrow spokesperson, in a statement.

The agreement comes several days after the Michigan Nurses Association took legal action against Sparrow on behalf of its unionized health care workers. The complaint alleges the hospital violated federal labor law by telling workers they would cut benefits if they went on strike.

Sparrow denies all allegations.

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