Uploaded: Wednesday, July 12, 2000 2:45 PM

Tempers start to fray in nurses' strike

by Don Kazak

Striking Stanford nurses and hospital officials prepared to return to the bargaining table Friday as the strain of the 5-week-old dispute started to show on the picket line.

Picketing nurses have twice stopped union truckers from making supply deliveries in the early morning hours, with police called out both times.

On Monday, a half-dozen nurses picketing at the Stanford Hospital loading dock at 4 a.m. stopped several trucks from making deliveries, said Kim Griffin, spokeswoman for the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement.

Griffin said the truck drivers called their supervisors, who came out and completed the deliveries.

Griffin said hospital security guards called Palo Alto police, who told the picketers they were doing nothing wrong.

That confrontation was repeated early this morning, but this time CRONA called police.

There are two versions of what happened. CRONA's Griffin said security guards used a hospital or university van to try to "bump" the pickets out of the way.

"That's not how you move people," Griffin said. "It's dangerous." She said everyone cooled down after police arrived.

But Ben Drew, spokesman for the hospitals, said, "There was no van." Instead, he said that a security guard, while trying to direct a delivery truck, "inadvertently touched the shoulder" of one of the picketers, which is when the union called the police.

The strike, which began July 7, shows little sign of ending. A short bargaining session was held Tuesday, but no progress was made.

Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals have hired 500 replacement nurses to take the place of the 1,700 CRONA nurses on strike. About 40 CRONA nurses have returned to work.

The union is asking for 15 percent in pay raises over two years, while the hospitals are offering 8 percent over two years.

Staffing and benefits issues are also being discussed. One of these includes the hospitals' desire to reduce vacation time for beginning nurses by 5 days.

"It becomes a recruiting issue," Griffin said, if beginning Stanford nurses get less vacation time than what is offered at other Bay Area hospitals.

Drew said the hospitals want to reduce paid days off for first-year nurses from 31 days a year, including vacation and holidays, to 26 days a year, to bring them in line with other first-year medical center employees.