Sutter Health Nurses Preparing for One-Day Strike

By: Angela Woodall, Oakland Tribune 12/21/2011

Several thousand registered nurses are planning a one-day walkout Thursday at nine Bay Area hospitals unless union negotiations with the Sutter Health parent company can resolve disagreements over proposed concessions.

If the two sides cannot agree, the strike is set to begin at 7 a.m. and end 24 hours later on Friday morning.

Sutter Nurse Strike Courtesy

Sutter Nurse Strike Courtesy

But Alta Bates Summit Medical Center — one of the hospitals in the Sutter Health network that is the target of the walkout — has pledged to lock out the nurses who strike.  

The hospital is asking them to report to work on Thursday, spokeswoman Carolyn Kemp said Tuesday afternoon. “Those who don’t can come back on the 24th.”

Five hundred replacement nurses have already begun to arrive in advance of Thursday’s strike, Kemp said. Summit signed a five-day contract that began Monday and ends Friday. The strike will be at least the second since the contract with the Sutter network expired about six months ago. Half of the approximately 4,000 nurses who have pledged to strike work at the Alta Bates, Summit and Herrick campuses in Berkeley and Oakland.

The others work at Eden Medical Center facilities in Castro Valley and San Leandro, Sutter Delta in Antioch, and Sutter Solano in Vallejo, as well as the Mills-Peninsula hospital campuses in Burlingame and San Mateo.All will be affected by the proposed walkout.

An additional 2,000 registered nurses are also scheduled to strike Thursday in Long Beach over similar issues, according to the California Nurses Association.

The union called the strike to protest benefit cuts and other changes. Two of the thorniest issues involve eliminating the up to 12 days of paid sick leave the nurses are currently entitled to. In addition, nurses in charge of hospital wards would no longer be represented by a union, under the agreement offered by Sutter Health.

Both sides said they hope an agreement can be reached by Thursday. But Kemp said little progress has been made because the union is not negotiating in good faith. The nurses are well paid with generous benefits and received a 22 percent salary increase during the past three years, according to a statement released by the hospital.

The walkout would come exactly three months after the last strike on Sept. 22, which was supposed to last no longer than 24 hours. Alta Bates Summit, however, locked out the striking nurses for five days.

An Alta Bates Summit patient, Judith Ming, died as the result of a medical error blamed on one of the replacement nurses provided to the hospital by the Alabama-based Advanced Clinical Employment Staffing. Her autopsy report is unavailable because the investigation is still open.

Advanced Clinical Employment Staffing will provide some of the replacement nurses for the upcoming planned strike. If the strike goes forward, the nurses will have a patient protection task force available at each facility, CNA spokeswoman Liz Jacobs said.


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