Thursday evening saw the pedestrian walkway across the Portage Lake Lift Bridge filled with UP Health System nurses and other members from their union protesting for higher wages and more staffing. The contract between the hospital system and Portage employees had been extended three times, and finally expired on September 30th.
UP Health Systems is owned by large private equity firms from out of state. The demonstrating nurses Thursday said that the organizations are too focused on the bottom line, at the expense of employees locally, and it could potentially lead to a drop in the quality of care. Kendra Benson says everyone is stretched to the limit.
The nurses say that better pay will help with retention, and claim that the Portage campus has one of the lower pay rates in the region. Not only are they looking for better attempts to keep people on staff, but also a sizable 7.75% pay raise. That has been countered with an offer of 3.5%, significantly below the current rate of inflation.
UP Health Systems released the following statement on the situation.
“The employees represented by the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) are critical members of our team, and we support them and respect their right to assemble and speak freely to the community they serve. We understand that the hospital’s contract negotiations with the MNA will likely be addressed. While we cannot comment on specific elements of those negotiations out of respect for the bargaining process, we are confident that the result will be a mutually agreeable contract for all. In the meantime, please rest assured that we will not be distracted from providing excellent care to our patients and community.
UP Health System – Portage takes very seriously our commitment to delivering high-quality, safe, and compassionate care close to home, and we strive daily to create excellent workplaces for our employees. Especially during this pandemic, which has arguably been the most challenging situation the healthcare industry has ever faced, we want to recognize and support our staff and clinical teams who have cared for our patients during this time.”