Nurses from Stanford Hospitals and Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital are set to go on strike if the hospitals’ management and the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA) do not agree on a new contract.
CRONA, the independent union at Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children’s Health that negotiates collective bargaining agreements with the hospitals, has three major demands regarding wages, on-call policies and flexibility.
Last week, 84 percent of nurses at the two hospitals voted for CRONA’s executive board to authorize a strike if an agreement is not reached at the conclusion of mediations, which began on Monday and have lasted as late as 3 a.m. Talks were expected to finish Tuesday, but another meeting is scheduled today.
The contested contract has been in discussion since February and officially expired on March 31. While no deal was finalized with the hospitals, both parties agreed to one follow-up meeting today.
Ultimately, CRONA will make the decision to strike or not strike. CRONA’s last issued nurses’ strike in 2000 was the longest in state history, lasting 51 days.
Now, CRONA will give the hospitals a 10-day notice of strike if an agreement isn’t reached so that patients can be covered and cared for properly.
“We broke down based on disagreements on competitive compensation and working conditions, and we believe the hospitals’ current proposal is insufficient to remain competitive in the Bay Area today,” said Colleen Borges R.N., president of CRONA.
The hospitals rejected CRONA’s proposal to increase annual wages by seven percent, six percent, and six percent over three years, as well as their proposed 12-hour cap on mandatory on-call hours. The hospitals also rejected CRONA’s plan for preventing nurses from burning out by allowing them to choose to work shorter shifts for less time.
On their part, the hospitals have proposed what they call “significant enhancements to the existing agreement,” which include a retirement match increase and a wage increase of 12 percent over the three-year contract.
In a statement regarding negotiations with CRONA, Kelley Frank, internal communications manager of Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, forwarded the following statement on behalf of the hospitals: “We remain committed to good faith bargaining in order to reach an agreement that is highly competitive and fair for our nurses – one that compensates them for their skills, contributes to their retirement, provides a work-life balance and expands their educational opportunities.”
But according to Borges, a wage increase and more flexible hours are necessary to improve the current living conditions of nurses. Over the past year, CRONA has been examining where their nurses live and how long it takes for them to get to the hospitals where they work as needed, especially during on-call time.
“That’s when it came to light that nurses are sleeping in their cars when they are on call because they have to be here within 30 minutes and they live an hour away,” Borges said.
A nurse of 17 years – six of which he has served at Stanford Hospital – echoed Borges, saying, “A lot of us have to sleep in our car or van because we have nowhere else to sleep on call.”
According to Borges, another large issue is the hospital’s proposed mandate of an additional 24 hours of on call time per week.
“[Nurses] just can’t continue to work at that capacity; it’s not safe for patient care,” she said. “CRONA’s goal is to provide high quality care to our patients in the most safe and effective way … We are worried about patient safety when we hear about numbers like that.”
Furthermore, according to CRONA, the poor working conditions and inadequate wages of Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard are driving nurses away and to other local hospitals, such as UCSF Medical Center. Borges believes that a package approved by CRONA will help to attract and retrain highly skilled and experienced nurses at the hospitals.
Attracting nurses is especially critical as both hospitals are planning major expansions – a new facility for Lucile Packard in 2017 and a new 824,000 square foot space for Stanford Hospital in 2018. Together, the hospitals are set to hire as many as 700 new nurses, Borges said.
This growth coincides with a national shortage of nurses. 1.2 million registered nurse vacancies are predicted to appear between 2014 and 2022, according to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We are committed to getting a total agreement for our nurses,” Borges said. “We want to make sure that the package we get provides the competitive overall benefits [and] language that will allow the opportunity for flexible scheduling, humane working conditions, and that the nurses will want to come to come to Stanford and Packard, and that we can keep them here for their careers so that they can continue to provide the patient care that we do today to the very sick.”
Contact Rebecca Aydin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An earlier version of this article quoted Borges as calling for “human working conditions” instead of “humane working conditions.” The Daily regrets this error.