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Union Official Says Bay Area Nurses To Strike On Christmas Eve

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In a lingering dispute between the union representing nurses and management at several San Francisco Bay Area hospitals, thousands of registered nurses will be walking off the job on the day before Christmas, a union official said Saturday.

Nurses and X-ray technicians represented by the California Nurses Association will begin a one-day strike on the morning of Dec. 24 at seven hospitals operated by Sutter Health and at two San Jose hospitals affiliated with the Hospital Corporation of America, said union spokesman Chuck Idelson.

Union officials say the Christmas Eve strike — the eighth by the association since September 2011 — was not called over a salary dispute, but comes as the union and the hospitals remain at odds over staffing levels, health benefits and sick days. Hospital officials want to reduce the number of paid sick days for nurses and technicians, while eliminating health care coverage for those who work less than 30 hours a week, Idelson said.

“Pay is not even an issue. It’s never been an issue in this dispute,” Idelson said.

“Every one of these strikes is over the demands Sutter has been making for cuts in the ability of nurses to provide quality care,” he said.

But hospital officials have made what Stacey Wells, a spokeswoman for Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, one of the not-for-profit Sutter Health facilities where the nurses will be walking out, “incredibly generous” offers during nearly 18 months of negotiations with the nurses.

She also criticized the union for calling a strike on the day before Christmas.

“It’s unfortunate that the nurses would call a strike on the day before a holiday, when patients in the hospital at that time are the sickest of the sick,” Wells said.

As in previous strikes, the hospitals were planning to bring in traveling, or replacement nurses, to fill in for the striking nurses.

The upcoming strike by the nurses adds to a growing list of recent strikes by workers represented by other unions in California, including an eight-day walk-off by clerical workers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors that stalled billions of dollars of cargo and left container ships stranded off the California coast.

Also last month, a one-day strike by custodians and electrical workers shut down the Port of Oakland, workers at West Sacramento-based grocery chain Raley’s walked off the job — the first strike in the company’s 77-year-history — and nurses at Sonoma County’s Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital walked off the job for three days.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)

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