SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Roughly 5,000 registered nurses from 10 Sutter and Hospital Corporation of America hospitals throughout the Bay Area are striking Tuesday, charging that the hospitals are making cuts in nurses’ benefits and patient care standards.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, 3,300 nurses and several hundred technicians at eight Sutter hospitals will be picketing in protest of the corporation, according to the California Nurses Association.

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Rallies were scheduled throughout the day at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, San Leandro Hospital, Sutter Delta in Antioch and Sutter Solano in Vallejo.

The strike is the seventh in a series of strikes by members of the state’s nurses association over contracts that have been in negotiations for about 19 months. The last strike was on Oct. 31.

The nurses association said the reason for the strike is concessions demanded by Sutter management such as eliminating sick days and requiring nurses to pay for their own health care.

Sutter spokesman Bill Gleeson said the company offers competitive salary and health care options to its CNA employees and an increase would hurt the corporation.

“A nurse who chooses to work full-time at a Sutter-affiliated hospital with an open CNA contract earns on average of $136,000 per year,” Gleeson said.

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In addition, Gleeson said, “Most registered nurses also have an option for 100 percent employer-paid health benefits.”

The nurses association is also hoping for significant pay raises that will increase costs by millions, according to Gleeson.

“Union leaders are demanding double-digit wage increases and free health care for life—which would increase costs at our hospitals by tens of millions of dollars each year,” he said.

In the South Bay, another 1,500 registered nurses will be on strike Tuesday at two San Jose HCA hospitals—Good Samaritan Hospital and Regional Medical Center.

The nurses association is striking in protest of the hospital management’s rejection of the nurses’ proposals for improvements in safe staffing and other patient care conditions, according to the association.

A rally was scheduled Tuesday afternoon at Good Samaritan Hospital.

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