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Wednesday, June 22, 2005 | Morale remains high among the several dozen registered nurses who rallied at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center Thursday following the court-ordered cancellation of a planned strike against UC hospitals and clinics across the state.
The center in Hillcrest, an employer of about 1,100 registered nurses, made extensive preparations for the one-day strike organized by the California Nurses Association in the wake of last month’s failed negotiations between the union leaders and the UC over a new contract determining nurses’ wages and benefits.
At the last minute, the California Public Employment Relations Board, which oversees collective bargaining in public agencies, stepped in to convince a Superior Court judge in Sacramento that the strike was potentially illegal because the negotiations had not reached an impasse.
Many of the nurses who participated in the noon rally see the court injunction as yet more evidence of a state agenda, led by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to undermine nurses’ pensions and avoid making good on state-mandated staffing ratios that would improve the workload of individual nurses.
“This is an orchestrated assault on working classes in California by the governor, by the California Hospital Association and by the court that the UC belongs to,” said CNA board member Geri Jenkins, a registered nurse in San Diego for 28 years.
Meanwhile, UC-issued statements maintain that the intended strike was indicative of a failed duty to act in good faith throughout the bargaining process, arguing that it is in the interests of both patients and nurses for the union to return to a bargaining table where fair proposals have been made.
“We do an important job here and nurses are an important part of that job,” said UCSD spokeswoman Leslie Franz. “The hospital and the UC must work together as a team and resolve things at the bargaining table.”
But neither side has shown signs of compromise, as indicated by the overwhelming 95 percent of registered nurses who rejected the UC system’s final offer on the grounds that it did not include a provision for future pension negotiations and failed to uphold previously agreed-upon staffing ratios.
And nurses at UCSD are vehement that their standards must be secured in contract, even if it means planning for another strike in August.
“UCSD nurses are the lowest paid nurses in San Diego,” said Janice Webb, a local registered nurse of 19 years who sat at the union bargaining table. “This strike should have been legal as an unfair labor practice strike.”
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