Barton Health, nurses agree to ‘cooling off period’ amid labor negotiations | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Barton Health, nurses agree to ‘cooling off period’ amid labor negotiations

Some Barton Health employees allege the company is putting profit ahead of patient care. Barton says the allegations are not true.
Ryan Hoffman / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Barton Health and its nurses have agreed to a “cooling off period” amid ongoing labor negotiations.

That’s according to a press release from the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which has been brought in by the two parties to try and help find a resolution.

“On the request of the mediator, the parties have agreed to abide to a 35-day cooling off period beginning Feb. 19, 2019,” states the press release. “During this period, neither party may conduct any sanctioned labor action, to include strikes or lockouts. However, the parties will continue to be actively engaged in negotiations to exchange proposals under the guidance of FMCS.”

The announcement follows a de-escalation in the negotiation process. In early February the nurses, who overwhelmingly voted in November 2017 to join the California Nurses Association, told Barton they intended to strike.

In response, Barton notified the nurses it would be bringing in temporary nurses to ensure services would not be disrupted. Under the terms of the contract, the temporary nurses would have been on the job for five days, despite the nurses only striking for one day.

Days before the planned strike the nurses agreed to call it off and Barton agreed to cancel its temporary workers, the Tribune previously reported.

Both sides on Wednesday confirmed the “cooling off period” and expressed some optimism.

“From our side, we’re going to try this in good faith in hoping that Barton will as well,” California Nurses Association labor representative Shawn Bartlett told the Tribune.

“We’re glad that we’re back at the table with the nurses’ union,” read a statement from Barton Health. “A federal mediator is present and we’re optimistic that we can make progress toward an equitable contract.”

For the nurses, the terms of an equitable contract remain the same. As Bartlett reiterated, nurses want to address what they say is high turnover. They also want to improve the quality of care. They hope to do this, in a part, through improved health care benefits and higher wages.

Barton, for its part, has countered that it offers competitive benefits and is on par or better than industry averages on metrics such as turnover.

The two sides are scheduled to meet again Feb. 27. Additional bargaining meetings are scheduled for March.