Washoe nurses to stage one-day strike | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Washoe nurses to stage one-day strike

Union nurses at Washoe Medical Center in Reno are planning a one-day strike as part of a dispute over merit-wage increases.

More than 150 nurses in six units are expected to protest June 26 in support of a National Labor Relations Board complaint, one of a series of charges filed by the Operating Engineers Local 3 Union.

The units include cardiac intensive care, emergency services, intensive care nursery, neurology, telemetry and the MRI department.

The union notified the hospital two weeks in advance of the strike. An average of 18 patients a month are referred to Washoe from Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe.

A NLRB hearing has been scheduled in Reno Aug. 14.

Since December 1999, the union has been sparring with the Reno hospital over a variety of issues ranging from union activities to salary negotiations. The latter culminated last April with the hospital’s imposing an across-the-board wage hike of $1.56 per hour for registered nurses and a 4 percent merit increase on the nurse’s anniversary date.

By a vote of 97 percent, the nurses turned down the offer because they claim it fails to go far enough in benefits.

For this latest quagmire, union nurses claim merit increases based on performance evaluations were withheld from July 1, 2000 to April 16, 2001.

“Nurses were even told what they would have gotten (during the evaluations),” union representative and RN Carin Franklin said.

Hospital spokeswoman Judy Davis said she’s confident the hearing will find “no merit to the allegations” of wrongdoing from the hospital.

Davis declined to comment on the specifics of the case prior to the hearing.

Rather, she did indicate that performance evaluations are required by the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Heathcare Organizations, the agency that accredits U.S. hospitals.

Both sides agree on one thing – patient care should not suffer during the strike. But even that point is relative, depending on one’s perspective.

Although 400 nurses are affected by union activities, no more than half are slated to conduct the strike.

“Nurses don’t just walk out the door. You don’t understand what it takes for nurses to do that,” Franklin said.

Washoe Medical Center has developed a comprehensive strike plan to prevent any breakdown in patient care.

“Our primary goal, at all times, is to provide high-quality, continuous care in preparation of a strike,” Davis said.

The hospital has contracted with U.S. Nursing Corp., a firm that supplies replacement nurses.

Barton Memorial Hospital officials asked Washoe to assess whether the hospital could handle transfers as usual.

“They’ve been assured by Washoe there should not be any decrease in services,” said Kathy Cocking, director of hospital operations. Barton could also utilize Sacramento-area facilities if needed, she added.

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