Changes today for Washoe hospital |

Changes today for Washoe hospital

Almost ensuring a continuing battle in a 16-month labor dispute, Washoe Medical Center plans to impose today its last offer which had been rejected by the nursing union last month.

The medical facility receives about 18 patients a month transferred from Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe.

“Since negotiations have reached an impasse, Washoe Medical Center now finds itself in a legally supportable position to implement the wages and benefits included in our final offer,” Executive Vice President Rod Callahan stated last week. “This action is warranted and fair and must be implemented now.”

By a vote of 97 percent, the registered nurses in the Operating Engineers Local Union turned down the contract offer last month because it was not competitive with other RN salaries, they said.

The offer essentially gives a $1.56-an-hour salary increase for nurses, a 4 percent merit increase on their anniversary dates, enhanced sick leave and family leave, among other benefits.

“The nurses are more than just upset,” union representative and RN Carin Franklin said.

There’s no talk of a strike yet, but tensions are high. The union has organized picketing twice in less than a month. However there was no work stoppage during these activities.

The union has apparently consulted with its legal counsel and is countering the hospital’s claim to its legal right to proceed with the contract after a lengthy collective bargaining period. The negotiations have ended by leaving both parties with irreconcilable differences.

The union filed numerous charges with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing medical center officials of disrupting union-staged activities and illegally withholding merit-wage increases based on performances for 400 nurses since July 1.

As a result of complaints issued by the labor relations board, hearings are expected to be held this year regarding the matter.

“If an impasse in negotiations is reached, the company can impose its position. The union is free to go on strike or accept their position,” NLRB Director of Information Dave Parker said.

But the impasse requires that both parties negotiate in good faith. This appears to be a sticking point to the nurses union.

“They can reach an impasse, or (the hospital) can claim (it has.) But (it) may not have,” NLRB spokeswoman Patricia Gilbert said.

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