- Union nurses and HCA Healthcare reached a tentative contract agreement that members at three Southern California hospitals will vote on Tuesday and Wednesday, effectively averting a 10-day strike planned to start Christmas Eve.
- The new contract includes greater transparency and communication on emergency preparedness plans from the hospitals to employees and guarantees the hospitals will provide personal protective equipment as required by state law, according to a statement from Service Employees International Union 121RN. It also stipulates the hiring of dozens of nurses at each hospital to ensure other staff get adequate rest and meal breaks.
- If ratified, it will be the first union contract for employees at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California. About 120 pharmacists, clinical laboratory scientists, physical, speech and occupational therapists, social workers and dietitians formed their union in December of 2019.
With COVID-19 surging across the state, local hospital associations expressed major concerns with the planned work stoppage that would have involved some 2,000 nurses and other medical professionals.
"There is no question about the union's prerogative to strike, but the right to do something doesn't make it right," Carmela Coyle, president of the California Hospital Association said in a Friday statement.
"This labor activity will not only affect the three targeted hospitals, but also will cause a ripple effect resulting in reduced capacity at all hospitals in the greater Los Angeles area," Coyle said.
Following a breakdown in contract negotiations, union members at three HCA hospitals: Riverside Community Hospital, Los Robles Regional Medical Center and West Hills Hospital & Medical Center, voted to authorize a strike Dec. 10.
Staffing shortages, inadequate PPE and insufficient testing of patients were key issues union members wanted addressed in the next contract, according to the SEIU 121RN. Those factors have been top of mind for nurses and other clinicians as U.S. case numbers have reached even higher peaks than seen in the spring and have prompted other labor actions during the pandemic.
The two sides brought in a federal mediator and, since Dec. 11, logged 102 hours in negotiations, according to the union.
"This agreement with the union, along with the new vaccines, provides reason for optimism among our friends, families and neighbors and helps stabilize our area's healthcare system," an HCA spokesperson said in an email statement.
"We appreciate community leaders who put the needs of the communities first over the past week and expressed concern regarding the planned strikes," they said.