COLUMBIA/HCA: Heads Off Battle with Nurses Union
Derailing what might have been an "ugly battle" over a contract that was set to expire June 30, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and the California Nurses Association agreed last week to a one-month contract extension to allow time to hash out a deal, the San Jose Business Journal reports. The two groups "have been primed for a contract battle" since Columbia sought approval from the National Labor Relations Board to negotiate separate contracts with nurses at each of its four San Jose-area hospitals, rather than treating them as one unit. Although Columbia officials insist the move is part of a larger move toward decentralization, CNA union spokesperson Chuck Idelson countered, "It's really important that you have comparable standards in all the facilities owned by the same employer." Columbia came under fire for trying to hold off on contract negotiations until the NLRB reached a decision, but balked when it learned the process could take two years. "We don't want to sit there for two years without a contract," said Good Samaritan Hospital CEO Bill Piche. Negotiations on a contract that would cover all four hospitals -- San Jose Medical Center, Good Samaritan, South Valley Hospital and Alexian Brothers Hospital -- were expected to resume yesterday.
Fuel to the Fire?
Adding "a possible wrinkle," Columbia is in talks to unload South Valley to Catholic Healthcare West. Observers predict that CHW would then merge the hospital with its own Saint Louise Hospital, which is not unionized. "Certainly if there was an attempt to remove representation from the nurses at South Valley, that would be of grave concern," Idelson said (Delevett, 7/5 issue).