County medical center’s nurses prepare to strike

Nurses at San Mateo County Medical Center said Thursday that they intend to issue a 10-day strike notice if the county doesn’t meet their contract demands.

Nurses represented by the California Nurses Association union rallied at the hospital Thursday, asking the county not to reduce pensions and retiree health benefits for 263 nurses who belong to the union. Negotiations began in late January to renew the contract, which expired March 25.

“It’s definitely a sign that they’re prepared to fight,” CNA representative Joann Jung said. She was not sure when the 10-day notice would be delivered.

Registered nurse Liz Jacobs said 180 nurses have left the medical center since 2001. She said the county nurses are the lowest paid in the Bay Area.

Tim Sullivan, county director of labor relations, denied that turnover was that high, pegging it at 7 percent to 9 percent and saying it had gone down in recent years.

Nurses are also paid comparably to their peers at other hospitals, Sullivan said. Nurses’ wages at the medical center range from $7,093 to $8,279 per month, depending on position and seniority.

County negotiators have offered nurses an across-the-board salary increase that keeps wages competitive and offers an additional increase in positions that are hardest to fill, such as staff nursing positions, according to Sullivan.

The medical center will develop a contingency plan if the nurses strike, hospital spokesman Dave Hook said.

The center handles about 145,000 inpatient stays and 31,000 emergency-room visits per year.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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