Mercy Healthcare Nurses Reject CHW Contract Offer
Nurses at four Catholic Healthcare West hospitals in Sacramento have rejected a tentative contract agreement and have authorized a strike if negotiations over salary increases remain stalled, the Sacramento Bee reports. Last week, nearly 3,500 nurses at several Northern California CHW hospitals were prepared to strike, but CHW officials and officials from the California Nurses Association reached an agreement that was presented for a vote. On Friday, 1,500 nurses at Mercy General, Methodist Hospital, Mercy San Juan Medical Center and Mercy Folsom voted down the proposed contract. The nurses were seeking a larger role in staffing decisions, better health benefits, richer pensions and a salary increase. Both sides now say that negotiations remain stalled over money. Union officials say that Mercy nurses "earn $3 to $5 per hour less" on average than nurses at other area hospitals. Mercy gave registered nurses an "interim" 6% pay raise in May. Under the proposed contract, nurses would have received an additional 1.5% salary increase in the first year and a 4% raise the following year. The proposal also included "milestones" that would have standardized pay rates for nurses based on their tenure in the hospital system. But "[s]ome veteran RNs" rejected the offer, saying that signing bonuses would allow new recruits to earn as much as "career Mercy nurses." Union officials said that 250 RNs signed and sent a letter to Mercy management saying they would quit if the salary disparities were not addressed. The nurses also "authorized their union to initiate an open-ended strike" if an agreement on wage increases cannot be reached. Mercy spokesperson Jill Dryer said, "We have taken steps to address internal pay equity, retention and market competitiveness. We are very disappointed in the results of the vote" (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 7/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.