Posted: 8:49 p.m. Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thousands of nurses set to strike at East Bay Sutter hospitals

nurses strike
nurses strike

KTVU.com and Wires

OAKLAND, Calif. —

More than 3,000 registered nurses at Sutter hospitals throughout the East Bay are planning to walk out on the job on Friday to kick off a 7-day protest against Sutter's demands for pay and benefit cuts.

The nurses plan to picket at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center's three campuses in Berkeley and Oakland, at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, according to the California Nurses Association.

Picketing will start at 7 a.m. at each of the five hospitals, to be followed by noon rallies, according to the California Nurses Association, the union representing the nurses.

Sutter representatives said the five hospitals are prepared for the strike, which will be the ninth called by the CNA against the corporation in less than two years.

"While we are saddened by the unions' disregard for our patients and community, we will preserve patient care and keep all aspects of the medical center open during the strike to care for our community," Sutter East Bay spokeswoman Stacey Wells said in a statement. "Temporary replacement workers will be brought in for the full seven days and we hope that our employees will reject the union strike as they have in the past and cross the picket line."

The strike comes as negotiations have stalled between the CNA and the five East Bay Sutter hospitals, which are pushing for worker concessions including eliminating paid sick leave and doing away with health care coverage for nurses working less than 30 hours per week, and major increases in nurses' out-of-pocket health care costs.

Nurses say Sutter's demands would "effectively force nurses to work when ill, exposing already frail and vulnerable patients to further infection," in addition to ending health care coverage for 535 RNs and 31 techs who work less than 30 hours each week.

"As nurses, we must hold true to our values by advocating for our profession, which at its core protects patients, not profits," said Efren Garza, a psychiatric RN at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

But Wells said Sutter offers its nurses some of the highest salaries in the region in addition to generous healthcare and retirement packages, even as Sutter medical centers lost $21.5 million in the first quarter of 2013.

According to Wells, the average salary for a nurse working full-time at a Sutter facility is $137,000.

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