Nurses Expected to Vote on ‘Landmark’ Contract with University of California Health System
About 8,000 members of the California Nurses Association tomorrow are expected to vote on a "landmark" contract reached with the University of California Health System that helped avert a nurses strike last month, the Sacramento Bee reports (Kalb, Sacramento Bee, 6/18). Under the terms of the new three-year contract, the health system will eliminate its merit-based salary system and pay nurses based on seniority. Nurses' salaries will increase an average of 19% to 25% over the next three years, and the health system will retain the right to give nurses lump-sum rewards for "good performance." In addition, the system will pay longtime nurses "equity raises" to increase their salaries to the levels of newly hired nurses, who have been offered higher wages as a recruiting tool. The new contract will only permit mandatory overtime in emergencies and situations in which managers feel it is necessary to "maintain safe patient care." Health system officials and nurses will establish committees to discuss the minimum nurse-to-patient ratios that have been mandated by Gov. Gray Davis (D) but have yet to go into effect (California Healthline, 5/28).
Meanwhile, about 140 nurses, respiratory therapists and lab technicians at Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center yesterday began a four-day strike to protest what they say are low wages and inadequate staffing at the facility, the Los Angeles Times reports. The workers, members of the Service Employees International Union Local 399, plan to return to work on Saturday. The strike represents the second walkout by Queen of Angels workers in three weeks. The union's contract with Queen of Angels expired May 13, and members voted to reject an 11% pay increase over three years and additional health benefits offered by the hospital. The union is asking for a 7% pay increase and a "more affordable health insurance package" as part of a one-year contract. The striking workers also want increased staffing because they say the current levels "endanger patients' lives." Hospital administrators said Queen of Angels follows all state staffing requirements, which currently only mandate minimum levels for critical care and neonatal units. Julie Jatico, director of the hospital's emergency room, said that the facility has replaced the striking workers with out-of-state employees and has increased its recruiting efforts (Pacio, Los Angeles Times, 6/19).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.