Sharp nurses vote to ratify 3-year contract

Posted at 4:58 AM, Dec 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-08 18:29:07-05

SAN DIEGO - Registered nurses have ratified a new three-year contract with Sharp Healthcare in San Diego that includes "significant" wage increases, the union announced Thursday.

Sharp Professional Nurses Network officials said the new deal also addresses their concerns over nurse recruitment and retention. The contract agreement was announced at the conclusion of five months of "difficult and contentious" negotiation that included plans for a strike, which was canceled just hours before it was set to begin, according to the union.

"This is the best contract we've ever had," Christina Magnusen, President of SPNN said. "We've lost increasing numbers of nurses in recent years to better-paying hospitals in San Diego. This contract takes some big steps toward closing the gap, so by helping us keep well-trained, experienced nurses at the bedside and encouraging newer nurses to stay and make their careers here, it will help improve patient care."

"There's still more to be done to tackle nurse recruitment and retention, but Sharp nurses can be proud of how we stood up together for our patients and community," Magnusen said.

Sharp Healthcare officials also released a statement saying they were pleased that the nurses ratified the terms of the collective bargaining unit agreement, which will be effective until the end of September 2019.

"At this time, everyone at Sharp is excited to focus our full attention on continuing our health care transformation journey. We remain steadfast in our commitment to meeting the health care needs of all San Diegans and being the best place for our employees to work, our physicians to practice medicine and our patients to receive care," Dan Gross, executive vice president of Sharp Healthcare said. "Union negotiations are often challenging and Sharp is gratified to have successfully reached a new agreement that meets the needs of both our nurses and the health care system."

The union held a rally on Oct. 6 at the San Diego Convention Center that was attended by hundreds of nurses and supporters, causing Sharp to cancel its annual Sharp Experience employee event. Then, on Nov. 10, the nurses announced their vote to authorize a strike, according to the union.

The nurses delivered a federally-required 10-day notice to strike on Nov. 17, with the strike scheduled to begin on Nov. 28. But on the eve of the strike, it was averted by last-minute negotiations which extended into the following week and led to a tentative agreement that was announced Dec. 2.

"The public trusts nurses, because they know this isn't just a job for us, it's a calling," Denise Duncan, president of United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals said. "That's why Sharp nurses were willing to give up a week's pay to tackle the nurse turnover crisis at Sharp, and I think most of San Diego understood that, despite management's efforts to distract from the real issues."