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Children’s Hospital Oakland RNs Authorize Five-Day Strike

Press Release Press Release, 4/20/11

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For Immediate Release
April 20, 2011

Management demands to slash healthcare will hurt recruitment, retention of experienced nurses  
 
Registered nurses from Children’s Hospital Oakland voted Tuesday to authorize their nurse negotiators to call up to a five-day strike if necessary to protest ongoing management efforts to sharply reduce healthcare coverage for nurses and their families. No date has been set for a strike, and additional contract talks are scheduled for April 26.
 
The nurses say the unwarranted changes would leave Children’s RNs far below community standards offered by other Bay Area hospitals, seriously undermining the ability of the hospital to retain experienced RNs and recruit new nurses needed for children served by the hospital.
 
Under management’s current proposals health benefits, retirement health, and salaries would be at the bottom of Bay Area private hospitals. The healthcare cuts include monthly premium contributions of over $4000 a year which increase every year and higher deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and increased co-payments for prescription drugs and office visits, which are designed to make it prohibitively expensive for nurses to bring their own children to get care at the hospital where they work.
 
Management also proposed elimination of weekends off for nurses with 20 years of service, which will hurt retention of the facilities most experienced RNs. Nurses offered to accept a wage freeze in exchange for maintaining their healthcare benefits to avoid a three-day strike last October, a proposal which was rejected by the hospital negotiators.
 
“The hospital has never said they couldn’t afford to maintain our benefits,” said Martha Kuhl, an RN who had worked for more than two decades at the hospital, and is part of the nurse negotiating team.  “They’ve unilaterally implemented even worse health plans on the nonunion workforce at Children’s, and they want us to follow the lower standard they set with workers who had no voice. That’s not about fiscal responsibility; it’s an ideological stand that has no place in our community. We have a union, CNA, and we can stand up for great patient care and decent wages and benefits that attract the nurses who provide that care."
 
“I’ve been a registered nurse here for four years, and I love serving this community,” said Heather Brister, a Children’s Hospital RN. “I want to carry on the tradition of providing every child with the best care regardless of ability to pay. If Children’s insists on forcing the lowest standards on nurses out of all the Bay Area private-sector hospitals, they will drive my generation of nurses away. We can’t let that happen.”
 
Serious workplace violence issues also remain unresolved following a Cal OSHA investigation that began in November, and resulted in the state citing Children’s Hospital for having an ineffective training program, incomplete and inadequate procedures to deal with safety concerns, and “incomplete and untimely hazard correction for violence exposures in the Emergency Department. The problems have persisted despite repeated incidents and the hospital refuses to address RN proposals at the bargaining table.
 
The hospital spent $8.9 million on compensation in 2008 for the 26 top administrators, including social club memberships and $560,000 in severance pay for two short-term executives, yet would “save” less than $1 million a year from its punitive healthcare takeaways, an indication of distorted priorities and poor management practices, says CNA.

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