NURSING STRIKE I: Sun Healthcare Workers Locked Out in San Francisco
Some 155 nursing home workers striking against Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Sun Healthcare Group, which owns 91 nursing and rehabilitation homes in California, were told not to return to work until a contract agreement is reached, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Sun Healthcare officials said Saturday that the striking workers could not return without a contract, noting "If we allow them to return, we have no assurance that they're not going to walk out again." Sun spokesperson Karen Gilliland continued, "When you have 100 patients to take care of, a 48-hour stoppage of work is not acceptable." Workers from two Sun facilities -- Fremont-based SunBridge Care and Rehabilitation Center and Pleasant Hill-based SunBridge Care Center -- are striking over a redesigned benefits package that would cut employer contributions to family health insurance and reduce sick leave, holiday and vacation days for new employees. Saying that "We feel that we've made them a good offer," Gilliland noted that Sun Healthcare has reached similar agreements with several other California facilities. But nursing home staff, who have been without a contract since September 1, remain unfazed, according to Health Care Workers Union Local 250. The workers planned to strike through the weekend, returning to work today. But Gilliland stated that the workers will be turned away, noting, "We do have security on site at this time" (Contra Costa Times, 11/14). But Local 250 representative Charles Ridgell questions the legality of Sun's lockout. He stated that "The company is interested in having a war. But the workers are not going to roll over and play dead. We're going to fight back." Ridgell noted that the union will most likely challenge the lockout in court (Contra Costa Times, 11/14). Both parties noted that further negotiations have yet to be scheduled. Meanwhile, patients at the affected nursing homes are being taken care of by staff from other Sun-affiliated facilities and management staff. The strike proves to be just the latest in a string of troubles for Sun Healthcare, which filed for bankruptcy last month, having reported nearly $1.5 billion in losses (Wood, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/13).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.