Sharp nurses plan to go on strike at end of November

Posted at 2:30 PM, Nov 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-17 19:14:05-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Nurses at Sharp Healthcare facilities in San Diego County announced today that they plan to go on a three-day strike Nov. 28, after their union delivered a required 10-day notice to the hospital chain's management.

The announcement comes one week after 98 percent of around 2,200 Sharp nurses in the region who cast ballots voted to reject the company's final offer. The nurses said they intend to return to work on Dec. 1.

The union contends low pay has caused a high employee turnover rate at Sharp.

Management issued a response stating that Sharp anticipated the strike and has contracted with an agency to fill in for the duration of the three-day strike. 

"We are disappointed that the union has chosen to put our patients in the center of our contract disagreement by choosing to walk out of our hospitals," said Dan Gross, executive vice president of Sharp Health. "Throughout the negotiations the union has pushed for unrealistic wage increases and union security, which means forcing all our nurses to pay union dues, which increase union revenues. We unquestionably believe their labor practice claims are a smokescreen to force Sharp to meet their true demands." 

Management previously said Sharp offered to hike base pay by 16 to 26 percent over a three-year period, with nearly half implemented in the first year.

Sharp officials did not immediately comment on the impending walkout.

"The crazy thing is they even admitted to a roomful of nurses in negotiations on October 14 that they have a turnover problem," said Christina Magnusen, president of the Sharp Professional Nurses Network.

"In public, they try to paint this rosy picture, but the numbers tell the story," said Magnusen, a nurse at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa.

"Sharp's on track to lose 700 nurses in 2016, up from 605 last year and 514 the year before that. How can they keep denying it?"

Last week, union officials said their calculations showed that Sharp has around 350 fewer nurses than needed, but could quickly reverse the shortage by paying competitive wages.

Sharp registered nurses with five years of experience can move to competitors such as UC San Diego Health or Kaiser Permanente with hourly wages ranging from $8-$16 higher, according to the union.

In a previous statement, the company said its full- and part-time registered nurse turnover rate was lower than San Diego, Southern California and state averages, and its leaders were seeking ways to further reduce attrition.