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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Decision Upheld to Bar California Nurses' Strike

Sacramento Bee

The California Nurses Association vowed to continue its fight with the University of California over staffing levels, saying it won't be deterred by a San Francisco judge's ruling Friday that bars nurses from staging a one-day strike.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch prohibited the union from staging strikes at the university's five medical centers until at least Sept. 30, when the current contract between the union and the university ends.

Two days before the union was to stage a June 10 walkout at UC-run hospitals, Busch intervened by issuing a temporary restraining order requested by the state Public Employment Relations Board on behalf of the university.

On Friday, the judge made his ruling permanent, saying that there was reasonable cause for PERB to believe that a strike would violate state labor laws.

The CNA walkout was intended to protest what the union said are unsafe nurse staffing levels – a charge the university denies.

At the center of the dispute is whether the university is complying with state-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios, which require at least one nurse for every five patients – and even more for patients with higher levels of need.

The dispute over staffing levels has long been a sticking point in negotiations.

"I'm hopeful that because of the judge's ruling, the CNA will sit down at the table so we can work out a really good contract for the nurses. We can do this in earnest instead of posturing," said Carol Robinson, chief nursing officer for UC Davis Medical Center.

The CNA represents nearly 11,000 registered nurses employed by the university, including 1,800 at the UC Davis Medical Center.

University officials commended the judge's decision, but the setback upset union officials.

"We're going to continue fighting for proper staffing levels. We're not going to stop," said Beth Keane, the CNA's lead negotiator for the union's university labor contracts.

She said the union plans to file complaints with the state Department of Public Health. The state agency, however, has yet to act on a complaint filed by the union in November over staffing levels at the UC Davis Medical Center.

The university said it had already spent $8.4 million preparing for a possible walkout by nurses.