VALLEJO --The National Labor Relations Board has set a hearing date of Sept. 9 for a dispute between Sutter Solano Medical Center and the California Nurses Association, which stems from the union's claim that the hospital retaliated against registered nurses for participating in a walkout.
According to the Oakland-based nurse's union, an affiliate of National Nurses United, the 102-bed Sutter hospital imposed higher health care costs and "illegally imposed discipline" on RNs who took part in the walk-out last year during contract negotiations last November, a charge hospital officials dispute.
Sacramento-based Sutter Health and CNA have been trading barbs for the past year over negotiations at numerous Sutter-affiliated hospitals across the Bay Area, although several hospitals lately have reached labor agreements. Sutter facilities in Solano County and in the East Bay are among the last hospitals to reach a deal with Sutter.
The nurse's union said Sutter Solano "arbitrarily" imposed increased health care costs on RNs last November after nurses refused to accept terms of a labor deal put forth by Sutter during contract negotiations. As a result, the union said, "Sutter Solano RNs were beset with hundreds of dollars a month in higher healthcare costs."
Sutter counters that the plan it put forward is both lawful and competitive.
"We believe our health plan, which was lawfully implemented after almost 18 months of negotiations and 20 sessions, is competitive and offers a comprehensive health plan that is 100 percent paid by Sutter Health," Nancy Turner, spokeswoman for Sutter Solano Medical Center, said in a statement. "The union has taken offense to a specific clause in the health plan proposal that was on the bargaining table. This decision to hold a hearing does not mean we did anything improper. It only means the NLRB did not have enough information to dismiss the case outright. We are confident that once all information is reviewed, the NLRB will uphold our action.
The union also said Sutter Solano threatend to take disciplinary action against nurses who participated in a one-day strike Dec. 24, alleging the hospital demanded all Sutter Solano RNs indicate in advance their willingness to work on December 24, including those not scheduled for shifts on that day to avoid being locked out for five days. Following the strike, according to the union, the hospital issued written disciplinary action against the RNs for not reporting to work during the strike.
Again, Sutter officials dispute the nurses' account of the strike.
"There continues to be no question in our minds that the union was deliberately attempting to disrupt our business of providing care to patients with a series of hit-and-run intermittent strikes," Ms. Turner said in a statement. "The Christmas Eve strike was the second holiday strike, the seventh strike since negotiations began, and the third strike within 60 days. While we are disappointed the Board did not dismiss this outright, we understand the desire to hold a hearing, and we look forward to sharing more facts and participating in that process. We are confident that once the NLRB reviews the facts, they will have no choice but to conclude the union was asking our nurses to participate in an unprotected, intermittent strike."