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Nurses Strike At Bay Area Sutter Health Hospitals

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Nurses prepare pickets during a previous strike action. (CBS)

Nurses prepare pickets during a previous strike action. (CBS)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Thousands of registered nurses from nine Bay Area Sutter Health-managed hospitals began a one-day strike Thursday over stalled contract negotiations in which the sticking points include health care costs and sick days.

Some 4,000 nurses went on strike at 7 a.m. Thursday—and planned to strike a full 24 hours—to protest concessions management is seeking in five contracts, according to the California Nurses Association.

However, officials from Sutter said Thursday afternoon that “a significant percentage” of union-represented nurses who were scheduled to work Thursday reported to work, according to a blog that hospital management created to provide updates on the strike.

Sutter reported that 63 percent and 59 percent of nurses reported to work at Antioch’s Sutter Delta Medical Center and Castro Valley’s Eden Medical Center, respectively, but that figure was only 16 percent at Sutter Solano Medical Center.

Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the nurses’ association, disputed those numbers Thursday evening.

“We expect most (nurses) who we represent participated in the strike,” he said.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:

“Obviously nurses don’t want to strike, they’re being forced to strike so that there can be safe patient care every day of the year,” Idelson said by phone this morning.

Carolyn Kemp, a spokeswoman for Alta Bates Summit hospitals in Oakland and Berkeley, said Summit is asking nurses to make co-payments for their health care coverage but she said nurses are highly paid, earning an average of $136,000 per year.

She said nurses at Alta Bates Summit campuses have received a 22 percent salary increase over the last three years.

Idelson said dozens of bargaining sessions have already taken place, and that Sutter is now demanding fewer concessions than it was initially.

“Minute progress has happened,” Idelson said. “We’re going to continue to press them, we’re going to escalate in every way possible.”

Although the nurses plan to return to work Friday, Sutter has brought in replacement nurses on five-day contracts and will not allow the striking nurses to return to work until Saturday. The replacement nurses will be paid for five days but will only work two days.

Idelson said nurses were prepared for the possibility that they could be shut out longer than the duration of the strike.

Noon rallies were scheduled to take place at Vallejo’s Sutter Solano, Antioch’s Sutter Delta and Berkeley’s Alta Bates hospitals, and a 2 p.m. rally was scheduled on the Peninsula, according to the nurses association.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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