One-day nurse strike may occur on May 29

    A stalemate in labor talks between the California Nurses Association and the University of California will likely lead to a strike by nurses at UC medical centers throughout the state, both sides said Wednesday.

    UCSD Medical Center Hillcrest, Thornton Hospital and Student Health Services would all be effected by the one-day strike set to occur May 29.

    CNA is not optimistic that significant progress will be made to jump-start negotiations, which is what it would take avoid the strike, CNA spokesman Carl Bloice said.

    No talks occurred Wednesday because they were not expected to be “”fruitful,”” said UC Human Resources spokesman Paul Schwartz.

    CNA is waiting for the University of California to make the first move.

    “”As soon as we get the incentive from them we will return to the negotiating table,”” Bloice said.

    At this point only serious negotiations can avoid the one-day strike, Bloice said.

    The main points of contention between the two sides are compensation and mandatory overtime. The university favors pay raises based on job performance whereas CNA is asking for raises based on seniority.

    Now both sides are planning for the strike.

    In the event of a one-day strike, the university is planning to use replacement nurses. CNA is “”outraged”” over the development, Bloice said.

    CNA believes it is better to postpone surgery and move patients to unaffected medical facilities rather than bring in outside nurses who are unfamiliar with the hospitals and patients, Bloice said.

    Replacement nurses are already being used as needed to ensure that patient care does not decrease during the planned one-day strike and to prevent the non striking nurses from being overworked, Schwartz said.

    Both sides agree that using replacement workers during strikes at hospitals is common, but CNA believes that using them is a breach of the public’s trust.

    “”For a public entity — UC — to employ such strikebreakers, to spend the public’s money … we find that unconscionable,”” Bloice said.

    By using replacement nurses during the strike, the university says it is simply maintaining patient care.

    “”As a responsible employer, we have an obligation to do what we feel is best to serve our patients during the day of the strike,”” Schwartz said.

    Healthcare Consulting & Staffing Services, which provides temporary nurses, has a Web site that lists May 29 as a date when nurses would be needed in California. According to the Web site, pay would be $1,000 for the day’s 12-hour shift, plus “”deluxe accommodations.””

    Nurse Bridge, another temporary nurse staffing company, is under contract with the University of California but would not discuss the matter, said Nurse Bridge President Carol Feuger.

    The UC contracts with outside companies for temporary nurses, not the nurses directly, so contractual matters such as pay are not within the university’s control, Schwartz said.

    Should replacement nurses be used, none are expected to be at Student Health Services.

    SHS has not asked for nurses and it is not part of the medical center’s request for replacements, according to Director of Student Health Brian Murray. Supervisory nurses, medical assistants and physicians will staff the urgent care clinic.

    At Thornton Hospital and UCSD Medical Center Hillcrest, the exact number of temporary nurses that could be used is undetermined.

    Predicting an exact number now is difficult, said public information officer for UCSD Healthcare Eileen Callahan, because officials are still assessing the strike-day needs of each hospital.

    Adding to the problem is that not all nurses plan to strike and the hospital will try to keep patients to a minimum by rescheduling elective surgeries, she said.

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