OAKLAND (KCBS) – Registered nurses at Children’s Hospital Oakland voted earlier this week to authorize a 5-day strike within the next several weeks. The union representing the hospital’s 700 nurses said there was simply no alternative, considering their members have been working without a contract since last summer.

The biggest sticking point in the lengthy contract battle is the nurses’ own health care plans.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

Specifically, nurses have been offered two choices: a Kaiser-based plan that would be paid entirely by the employer but would limit the participants’ children to treatment at Kaiser facilities only; or, a second plan, a PPO, that would allow for participants to bring their young family members to Children’s for treatment, but requires a 15% employee contribution toward the plan premium.

“It could be up to $4,000 a year this year for nurses with families and not just nurses, it would be all the health care workers,” Wendy Bloom explained the potential cost of the plans.

Bloom, a member of the union negotiating team, has been a nurse at Children’s for 24 years. She suggested that the contract dispute could have a negative impact on the hospital.

“We’re concerned about the future of nursing at Children’s,” she declared. “That nurses would not want to come here to work because they couldn’t get the same benefits and wages that they can get at other hospitals.”

Children’s chief nursing officer Nancy Shibata wasn’t on board with that suggestion, countering that management’s proposal was not only fair but competitive with other Bay Area hospitals.

“In 2010 the average hourly rate for a nurse at Children’s was $64.50 per hour. That translates into $134,000 per year for a full time nurse,” she said.

Bloom said the nurses would likely give 10 days’ notice before striking. A negotiation session was also scheduled for early next week.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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