A strike planned for Friday by registered nurses at Mercy Medical Center Merced and more than 30 other California hospitals has been postponed.
The strike was called by the California Nurses’ Association, the union to which Mercy nurses belong.
The union claimed RNs were not getting needed protection in the event of a pandemic, such as swine flu.
Among other items, the union claimed nurses weren’t getting immediate access to the vaccine, as well as protective supplies, such as face masks.
The union has been in contract negotiations with San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West, Mercy’s parent company, since March over salary issues, benefits and adopting state safety practices for the swine flu virus.
Robert McLaughlin, spokesman for Mercy, said the parties remained in negotiations in Emeryville Tuesday afternoon.
“The federal mediator has requested that the parties refrain from public comment,” McLauglin said.
Because of the request of the mediator, the CNA also declined to speak to the media.
Mercy has been following guidelines from the Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including providing nurses with proper protective masks and isolating possibly infected patients, McLaughlin said.
Although the nurses’ union had said the strike was about safety for patients and nurses, hospital officials said the problem was more about money than safety.
Joe Lombardi, vice president human resources for Mercy, said last week that the holdup at the negotiating table was about wage increases.
The nurses wanted a bigger raise than the hospitals were willing to give, Lombardi said.
Although the strike has been averted for the moment, Mercy had a bite taken out of its wallet because of it. The hospital had to pay outside nurses to come to the hospital, and a nonrefundable deposit was given to the agency that would have provided nurses.
Administrators at the hospitals that would have been picketed also slammed the nurses’ union for picketing during a pandemic.
Individual nurses themselves have publicly declared that their motivation to strike wasn’t about money, but about self-protection.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or email@example.com