Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital nurses are planning to hold a one-day strike this September if contract negotiations aren’t agreed upon next week, California Nurses Association/National Nurses United announced.
The 650 nurses at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital have been working without a contract since January 22, according to a news release.
Contract talks are scheduled to resume on Monday, August 31, according to the news release and hospital officials. The strike is planned to begin Thursday, September 3.
“I am honored to represent my RN colleagues as a negotiator. This “take away” of rights the employer is using to hold up reaching an agreement is absolutely unacceptable. My role and responsibility is to maintain, protect and gain rights for nurses, not give them up,” said Susan Salkeld, who is an RN and Case Manager and has worked at Henry Mayo for 21 years.
Management’s delay in reaching a new contract agreement that guarantees the nurses’ ability to advocate for their patients jeopardizes patient care and the hospital’s ability to retain experienced RNs in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to the news release.
“It’s disappointing. We were certainly hoping to avoid strike,” said Patrick Moody, spokesman for Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. “It’s difficult to know what to expect. We hope to reach an agreement. We have to make preparations in case there is a strike. We will prepare. Keeping our patients safe is our number one priority.”
The hold up for both sides has been the contractual condition proposed by the Henry Mayo officials, which addresses the CNA and hospital administrators agree to resolve grievances with the hospital.
Hospital officials want the nurses to agree to arbitration, which would allow the hospital to resolve disputes through an agreed-upon third-party negotiator. Nurses’ union officials said the offer represents a threat to their constitutional rights to use the legal system to resolve a workplace dispute.
“We cannot agree to management’s demand that we undermine our own role as strong patient advocates by surrendering our legal rights,” said Robbie Bailey, an RN in the Ambulatory Care Center. “It is our professional responsibility to stand up for our patients and to do that effectively we must maintain all the rights available to us,” said Bailey who has been an RN for over 40 years, including 28 years at Henry Mayo.
California Nurses Union officials invited a panel consisting of city of Santa Clarita Councilman TimBen Boydston, Dr. Gene Dorio and a CNU rep in June, said Cynthia Hanna, lead labor representative for the CNA and National Nurses United, in a previous story. About 50 nurses and community members attended the meeting, held at the Valencia Public Library.
“Nurses provided testimonies regarding how they felt about being asked to waive their rights and general testimony about how it is to work for the employer,” Hanna said, in a previous story. “Many cited lack of respect to nurses and the doctors agreed with that. The main agenda item was the demand that the union, on behalf of the nurses, waive their rights.”
The new arbitration agreement mandates any grievance be filed within 10 days, making it harder for a nurse to make the kind of case necessary to prove systemic discrimination, said Robbie Bailey, a member of the CNA who’s been active in past contract negotiations, in a previous story. The new deal would take away the efficacy of the complaints’ “cumulative effect.”
“In essence, while (the nurses union) has had a pattern of making inaccurate and inflammatory statements about negotiations, the truth is that we have a good deal on the table…” said Vice President and Chief of Human Resources Officer for Henry Mayo, Mark Puleo, insinuating the union’s refusal was motivated by political concerns beyond hospital operations, not patient care, in a previous interview.
“We are ready to meet with CNA representatives at any time,” Puleo said, in a previous interview, “and we sincerely hope they will prepare a counter-proposal and schedule another bargaining session soon.”
While both sides are still in negotiations, there has been no significant progress since the nurses did refuse an April 29 offer, due to the aforementioned arbitration clause.
The nurses threatened a one-day walkout May 1, but called off the move April 24 ahead of those negotiations.