Sutter Health nurses go on strike

December 13, 2007 12:00:00 AM PST
Registered nurses at 13 Bay Area hospitals affiliated with Sutter Health are walking off the job.

Nurses are in the middle of a two-day strike at more than a dozen bay area hospitals today, in an effort to get a better contract. one of their big issues includes what they pay for health care premiums.

Alta Base Summit Hospital said two-thirds of the nurses showed up for work today, and it's had no impact on patient care. This is the second time they've had a walk-out since the contract expired this summer, last time was in October and they say the issues still are not resolved.

A noon rally brought hundreds of nurses to the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. The California Nurses Association scheduled a two-day strike against 13 Sutter hospitals in the Bay Area in an effort to address a variety of contract issues.

"I think unfortunately the hospital just cares more about the bottom line than they do about making nurses happy which would make the workplace much better for patients to receive care," said registered nurse Mollie Costello.

"We're not fighting about wages. We're fighting for our patients, and make sure that they get safe care. And also we can get our lunch breaks and our meal breaks, and that we can go home in a timely manner," said registered nurse Alicia Torres.

Nursing executive Viki Ardito says the range of issues has made negotiations difficult.

"It's different things for every nurse. You know if you're close to retirement it's about retirement for you. You know for some people it's about many different things, and that's really part of our huge issue that we have with the CNA and negotiating is they have 15 huge things on the table, and we can't figure out which two or three are the most important that we can focus on," said Ardito.

Hospitals anticipated the strike and have continued operating with nurses who crossed the picket lines, and replacement workers were hired for a few days.

Estrene West, a nurse at Alta Bates Summit in Berkeley is focused on retirement, and she's concerned about health care.

"Not enough money to cover what I need when I retire, because as the time goes on you know the insurance premiums will be higher," said West.

"The trend in retire health care has been towards more cost shifting to retirees. Retirees paying a greater share of the premium, fewer workers eligible for retiree health care, and greater cost sharing for the plans that people have," said Ken Jacobs from the UC Berkeley Center of Labor Research and Education.

Ken Jacobs, chair of UC Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education says it's a difficult issue.

"Retiree health care is expensive. It's a big issue, and it's a big issue for the entire state. This is not just a question for nurses," said Jacobs.

The strike is scheduled to continue through tomorrow. Many of these nurses may be off for as long as Tuesday because the hospital hired replacement workers who've been hired for several days.


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