Santa Monica RNs Postpone One-Day Strike, Accept Offer for Mediation to Resume Contract Talks
Registered nurses at Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica have postponed a strike that had been called for tomorrow, June 13 following an offer from former California State Senator Sheila Kuehl to mediate the nurses’ dispute with Saint John’s management. Hospital executives have also called off plans to lockout RNs following a one-day strike.
In a letter to the RNs and hospital executives, Kuehl, who is also the founding director of the Public Policy Institute at Santa Monica College, called on both parties to “strive for a solution prior to a strike/lockout.” The Saint John’s RN bargaining team voted to accept Kuehl’s proposed mediation, and agreed to call off the planned walkout.
“The decision to postpone the strike was really a no-brainer. Mediation gives both sides the chance to step back and refocus on the task at hand - negotiating a contract to improve the quality of care at our hospital and to ensure we can advocate for our patients for years to come," said Jack Cline, a Medical-Surgical Department RN at Saint John’s.
"Nurses stand by our strike vote. We know through unity we can win a fair contract for our patients and our community,” said Labor and Delivery RN Lori Hammond.
The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United represents 500 RNs at Saint John’s.
No date has yet been set for resumed talks.
Nurses had called the strike to protest what they viewed as stalling by hospital officials in reaching a fair negotiated agreement on a first contract for the RNs that would enhance patient safety and help retain experienced RNs at the hospital. Saint John’s RNs voted to join CNA May 2011 and have been in negotiations for their first contract since September 8.
At the center of the dispute is safe staffing. Under California law, all acute care hospitals are requiring to meet minimum requirements for the number of patients per RN. Most CNA hospitals have agreed to include RN ratios in the collective bargaining contract. Saint John’s proposal would substitute RNs for less skilled, licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), making it the only acute care facility in Southern California to do so.
The other key issue is fairness in wages and benefits. Saint John’s pays nurses substantially below, what RNs earn in other nearby CNA-represented hospitals, and there is no consistency— nurses with 25 to 30 years of experience are often paid less than some new hires.
As a result, retention of experienced RNs is dangerously low says CNA.