St. John’s Nurses Reach Agreement, Get Say in Staffing
Registered nurses at St. John's hospitals in Oxnard and Camarillo reached a tentative agreement with management late Wednesday night, "just hours before" their scheduled four-day strike was to begin, the Los Angeles Times reports. The deal, which averted the nurses' second strike in two months, met the nurses' primary goal -- giving them joint control with management over staffing decisions -- and includes a bi-level arbitration system. Under the agreement, if management and nurses can not agree on a staffing issue, "an arbitrator would be called in." If either side is unhappy with the arbitrator's decision, a second arbitrator "would step in," and his or her ruling would be legally binding. Lisa Hubbard, a spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union, which represents the nurses, called the agreement "unprecedented in California and perhaps the nation." She said, "This is the only contract I know of in California that not only gives nurses the right to sit down and talk about staffing with management but also gives them arbitration." Officials from St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard and Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo -- both owned by Catholic Healthcare West -- had said throughout the dispute that "staffing was their prerogative alone." Armando Azarloza, a spokesperson for the two hospitals, said, "We made a positive move to avert the strike. I don't see this in any way as giving up management's rights. Staffing is still a management decision, but this is a realization that nurses have a role to play" (Kelly, Los Angeles Times, 2/2). According to SEIU, the nurses have "agreed to postpone striking for at least two weeks while negotiations continue over additional unresolved issues, including pay, benefits," recruitment and retention (SEIU release, 2/1). The Ventura County Star reports that the two sides have "agreed to 10 days of bargaining to continue negotiations" later this month. An arbitrator is slated to resolve any remaining issues resulting from the negotiations (Jennings, Ventura County Star, 1/2).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.