Following a large Minnesota nurses’ strike, another nurses union has authorized a strike, this time in Philadelphia. The potential strike will involve 2,250 nurses and other healthcare staff part of the Pennsylvania Staff Nurses and Allied Health Professionals (PASNAP) union, which represents over 9,000 nurses and healthcare staff members across Pennsylvania. The staff who are prepared to strike currently work at Temple University Hospital.
The nurses and staff have been working without a contract since September 30, 2022, when their most recent contract expired. Since then, the union and hospital administrators have been negotiating for a new contract, but if they are unable to come to an agreement, over 1,000 staff and nurses voted with 95% favoring a strike for 10 days. The decision was made after a rally was held at the ANCC National Magnet Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on October 14th.
What’s on the Table with the Potential Strike
According to the union, the nurses are most concerned with addressing the following aspects of the workplace:
- Safe staffing
- Staff retention
- Prevention of workplace violence
- Resources and respect for frontline staff
Fox29 News interviewed staff members that noted that safety in the workplace is a high priority for nurses and other healthcare staff because of where the hospital is located. “We work in North Philly. Everybody knows where our hospital is located. It’s a very dangerous community,” Carlos Aviles, president of Temple Allied Professionals told the news outlet. “What’s happening now in the community is making its way in the hospital and we’re not getting any type of protection.”
Additionally, staffing is also critical from the nurses’ perspective. “We have very reasonable offers on the table, chief among them a proposal that would ensure safe staffing in the hospital,” Mary Adamson, an intensive-care unit nurse and president of the Temple University Hospital Nurses Association told the Philadelphia Business Journal. “That’s what we want. That’s what our patients want. That’s what a hospital that cares about patient outcomes should want. Yet management has refused even to respond to our good-faith proposal regarding staffing.”
On the union’s website TUH gastroenterology nurse Marty Harrison, RN, vice-president of the Temple University Hospital Nurses Association also issued a statement that the problem with nurse staffing is not necessarily that there aren’t enough nurses in the area to staff the hospital, but that there are actually not enough nurses that want to do the jobs due to poor conditions.
“The problem at Temple and elsewhere isn’t that there aren’t enough nurses to fully staff hospitals,” she said. “The problem is that there aren’t enough jobs that nurses want to do, given the conditions at the bedside. We have to make these jobs, jobs that nurses want to do by fully staffing the hospital. Temple should want that, too – for their clinical staff and for their patient community.”
Aviles also spoke to what the union sees as unsafe conditions: “Our condition, they [are] just getting worse and worse by the days,” Aviles told CBS Philadelphia. “Look, you can’t have nurses working six-to-one ratios. You can’t have them at the bedside being burnt out.”
What the Hospital Says
On the hospital’s side, the administrators noted that they are still having a conversation and while they hoped to avoid a strike, they do have a process in place to ensure patient care will not be interrupted. The hospital also stated that they had offered a wage increase.
“Temple University Hospital has offered wage increases that would make our nurses the highest-paid of any of the region’s academic medical centers and has also offered to make many of our allied professionals the highest-paid in many of the region’s academic medical centers,” the hospital said in a statement.
It’s also not the first time that Temple University Hospital has experienced a strike—although the last one was in 2010. The month-long strike resulted in a new four-year deal for nurses and staff. More recently, Temple Health’s system has been struggling to maintain staffing. For instance, after losing over 500 nurses in recent years, they announced a $5 million initiative to help with staffing and avoid hiring agency nurses. The health system spent over $54 million in agency nurses in fiscal 2022, more than double what they had ever spent. And even with those costs, the system also reported a $231 million profit the same year.
Currently, there is no update on the union’s page or from the hospital, but the vote authorized a strike to happen on Wednesday if no contract agreement is reached by then. On Facebook, there is a post stating that GQR nursing staffing agency will be the travel nurse agency filling in during the strike.