Extra strike pay to nurses illegal, state board says
01/30/02 JOE ROJAS-BURKE
Oregon Health & Science University broke the law by paying bonus wages to every nursing employee who returned to work during the ongoing strike, a state agency ruled Tuesday. In a unanimous decision, the state Employment Relations Board ordered OHSU to stop paying the extra $7.50 an hour. The university offered the extra wages to all nurses working all shifts during the first weeks of the strike but said it has since limited the incentive.
The bonus payments exceeded anything the employer offered in negotiations with the union, which amounted to bad-faith bargaining, the board ruled. And bonus payments to lure nurses back to work also interfered with the right of employees to strike, the board said. The nurses' victory could be costly for
The board deemed the violations "sufficiently serious" to consider a range of penalties. The three-member board, appointed by the governor, said it would rule on the question of penalties by the end of February. Union nurses, who have been on strike for 44 days, are demanding that OHSU reimburse the striking nurses an amount equal to the extra wages paid to at least 225 nurses who crossed the picket line -- or take back the money from those who crossed the picket line.
"The Employment Relations Board has pretty broad jurisdiction to do whatever they think is fair," said Hank Kaplan, attorney for the Oregon Nurses Association. OHSU argued that it was justified under state law to pay the higher wages because of the medical emergency and business necessity. The board concluded that no medical emergency existed, in part because OHSU never
sought a court order to stop the strike. The ruling concluded that the dire business situation "was at least partially self-inflicted and was not unexpected," and so did not justify the employer's actions.
An OHSU spokesman Tuesday said the medical center paid the extra wages in the first weeks of the strike to overcome the uncertainty about staffing enough nurses to care for patients. "All shifts were declared in critical need," said Jim Newman, the spokesman. He said the medical center two weeks ago stopped the across-the-board incentive payments and began limiting the extra wages to certain hard-to-fill shifts.
Feb 2, '02
Received this response on Florence Projects listserve from Mary Robinson and reprinting with permission:
I am a member of the McLaren RNs in Flint, Michigan who were on strike for 73 days from November 8, 2000 until January 22, 2001. We had tremendous support from the community. Flint is the home of the UAW and the famous sit-down strike. Many labor unions supported us. We picketed 24 hrs. a day 7 days a week. Very few of our members crossed the picket line. Our issues were mandatory overtime and wage parity. To the RNs who cross any picket line, I say, "SHAME ON YOU!" Nurses must support each other to protect our patients. Crossers are selfish individuals who don't care about protecting our profession.
Remember: UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL. Karen
Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Feb 2, '02