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Providence health care workers postpone strike notice

The union that represents nurses and caregivers at Swedish Medical Center postponed plans to strike following "exploratory conversations" overnight Thursday.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Nurses and caregivers at Swedish Medical Center, the largest health care provider in the Seattle area, have postponed plans to strike.

On Friday, union health care workers of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW were expected to announce plans to strike on Jan. 14. However, the union instead said it postponed its strike notice and will expedite bargaining with the management team at Swedish and its parent company, Providence Health.

After overnight exploratory conversations, the union says Providence withdrew proposals to reduce paid time off and medical benefits and allow subcontracting.

With the strike notice postponed, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW says it expects an imminent return to the bargaining table for "marathon negotiating sessions."

UFCW 21 and the Washington State Nurses Association also paused strike notices after making "similar progress" overnight, according to SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW has claimed Swedish Medical Center and Providence Health care more about profits over patient safety.

Health care workers at Swedish claim patient care problems due to severe understaffing have worsened since Swedish was taken over by Providence.

In November, the union authorized a strike at seven Swedish locations in western Washington. The union said they were not pleased with the latest contract negotiations on Dec. 9, prompting a renewed spark to strike. 

RELATED: Swedish-Providence union health care workers vote to authorize strike

According to the union, contract proposals included affordable health benefits, safe nurse-to-patient ratios, more training opportunities, fair wages, recruitment and retainment efforts and safeguards against racial discrimination. 

If a strike occurs, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW at Swedish would be part of more than 13,000 total strikers at 13 Providence locations throughout the state. It would be the largest health care strike in recent history.

The union would give a 10-day notice before walking off the job. This would be the first time in at least the past 20 years that the union has authorized a strike.

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