Also, if the investigation backs up the claim the hospital dismissed workers over their union activities, "we could order (the hospital) to reinstate the people, putting things back to where they have been. We cannot assess fines or penalties, only order reinstatement and back pay."

St. Charles Health System leaders said they received notification Monday from the NLRB of the indefinite delay.

?We are disappointed by this decision, but we will work with the NLRB over the coming weeks as it investigates these charges in an effort to reach a quick resolution,? said Jay Henry, CEO of St. Charles Medical Center-Bend.

?More than anything, we want our caregivers to have the chance to voice their opinion on the matter of representation by the SEIU in a fair election,? Henry said in a brief news release.

Friday's filing was characterized by the SEIU as a challenge to alleged underhanded actions by the hospital. Bend?s largest private employer, meanwhile, labeled the complaint an unfortunate ?blocking? move on a decertification vote the union was likely to lose.

The hospital and the 600-member bargaining group have been negotiating without much success for a first contract for more than a year, since the initial vote brought in the union by a margin of just a handful of votes. Another bargaining session is set for April 3-4, the union said.

In a recent information sheet sent to community members, the union claimed, among other things, the hospital had hired a consultant to train and coach managers on site how to persuade workers to vote against the union. The SEIU sheet claimed pro-union workers have been told they cannot talk about the union on hospital property, including on their breaks, lunch or before or after their shifts.

Here are Friday's news releases, in full, from SEIU and the hospital:

ST. CHARLES MANAGEMENT CHARGED WITH BREAKING LAW

WITH INTENT TO DERAIL UPCOMING ELECTION

(Bend, Oregon) On Friday, The St. Charles Bargaining Team and SEIU filed Unfair Labor Practices against St Charles, contending that the hospital and its team of consultants had engaged in repeated illegal and coercive tactics with the intention to confuse and intimidate employees into voting to decertify the union.

A decertification election, initiated by a minority of workers at the hospital was scheduled for March 21st.

?We have demonstrated that there is a strong majority support for our union here at the hospital, over and over again. However, in the last few weeks, it has become clear that there was no way to have a fair and democratic election in the environment management created,? said Joanne Kennedy, Pharmacy, and Bargaining Team Member.

This is not the first instance in which St. Charles Bend has been charged with unfair labor practices. Earlier this year, SEIU filed other unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB has already issued a complaint for the charge stating that the employer unlawfully failed to bargain over healthcare changes and unilaterally increased costs for employees. A hearing is set for June.

?The actions taken by St. Charles are really disappointing; especially by an employer that is a community asset. I know caregivers at the hospital were ready to again demonstrate their majority support for SEIU, but we cannot stand by while St. Charles is clearly violating the law. We are requesting a federal investigation by the NLRB? said Meg Niemi, President, SEIU Local 49.

The elected bargaining team at St. Charles Bend will continue negotiations and has set dates for April 3 & 4, 2012. They will move forward to settle a contract that improves patient care, creates good jobs, ensures job security and puts an end to contracting out jobs to the lowest bidder. Nurses who are represented by ONA at the hospital have a contract that expires at the end of June of this year.

SEIU is the largest and fastest growing health care union in the country, representing over a million health care members and over two million members overall. SEIU Local 49 represents more than 10,000 members including certified nursing assistants, phlebotomists, laboratory assistants and other health care workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Who is St. Charles Health System?

With medical centers in Bend, Prineville and Redmond, St. Charles Health System employs over 3000 employees, making it the largest private sector employer in Central Oregon and with St. Charles Medical Center Bend being one of the most profitable hospitals in the state.

Who are the workers of St. Charles Medical Center Bend?

We are 600 front-line care providers. We are Certified Nursing Assistants, Emergency Room Techs, Monitor Watchers, Phlebotomists, Admitting Clerks, Housekeepers, Food Service Workers, Pharmacy Techs, Operating Room Assistants and more. Some of us perform direct patient care, and others provide vital services, from purchasing equipment to preparing patients? food to cleaning the rooms they heal in. Every one of us contributes directly to the health and well-being of patients.

What is the timeline?

January of 2011 ? Majority of Caregivers cast a ballot in favor of forming a union with SEIU Local 49

May of 2011 ? Hospital workers begin bargaining

November of 2011 ? Community members join local leaders and caregivers at the hospital for a Candlelight Rally in support of hospital workers