Calif: East Bay nurses plan to strike Doctor's Medical Center

  1. registered nurses at doctors medical center, which has facilities in san pablo and pinole, calif., have told administrators that they will begin a strike nov. 4 over pension and retiree benefits.

    san jose mercury news, oct. 24, 2002
    by judy silber
    contra costa times

    doctors medical center says it will hire temporary nurses to fill positions left vacant

    upset by doctors medical center's refusal to offer pension and retiree benefits, registered nurses wednesday told administrators that they will begin a strike nov. 4.

    a spokesman for doctors, which has facilities in san pablo and pinole, said the medical center will continue caring for its patients through the strike. michel burelson said doctors will hire temporary nurses to fill positions left vacant by up to 450 striking nurses.

    burelson refused to comment on how much a strike will cost the hospital, but temporary nurses are typically more expensive than staff.

    the rn contract expired aug. 31, but negotiations continued until tuesday. nurse negotiators declared their intention to strike later the same day, saying discussions between the two sides have been bitter and nonproductive. nurses said they will send a required 10-day advance warning notice to the federal mediation conciliation service early today.

    the differences are unlikely to be resolved any time soon, said corinne comer, a negotiator for the california nurses association. she speculated the strike could last for a long time.

    "nurses are truly bewildered by this hospital's position," comer said. "it simply does not make sense in this market," referring to a severe nursing shortage that has many bay area hospitals offering signing bonuses and extra benefits to entice new nurses.

    "we believe they completely underestimate the degree to which nurses control the market," she said. in fact, the union is telling nurses who strike to take temporary or even permanent jobs at other area hospitals. nurses were set to hold a candlelight vigil wednesday night at the san pablo campus to protest their treatment by doctors.

    "we feel we're negotiating in good faith," said burelson, who refused to offer details on the negotiations. "we're optimistic that we can come to some kind of agreement.

    the pension plan proposed by nurses calls for doctors to contribute sums equaling 5 percent of nurses' incomes into a pension fund. nurses say a pension plan is favorable to traditional 401(k) plans because it protects retirement savings from stock market crashes. they've also asked the medical center to pay for medical benefits after retirement.

    burelson said the 401(k) retirement benefit plan currently offered by doctors is equal or better than the pension plan.

    nurses say that without the retirement benefits, they won't have parity with rns at other area hospitals. rns at kaiser permanente hospitals, university of california hospitals, alta bates medical center, mt. diablo medical center and eden medical center successfully negotiated pension and medical benefits for retirees into contracts this year.

    they accused doctors, a member of for-profit tenet healthcare corp., of sacrificing its workers in favor of profits. according to data from the office of statewide health planning and development, doctors medical center san pablo reported a pre-tax net income of $11.5 million in 2001 on total net patient revenue of $121.1 million, for a profit margin of 9 percent.

    judy silber covers biotechnology and the business of health care. reach her at 925-977-8507 or
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