Uploaded: Monday, June 19, 2000 4:00 PM

Nurses' union lowers its salary request

Striking nurses slashed their proposed salary increase by about 20 percent this morning as their walkout at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals neared the end of its second week.

The union representing the 1,730 nurses, the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement, today proposed a 9.5 percent increase for the first year of a two-year contract and 8 percent in the second year. The union previously had requested 21.5 percent over two years.

The hospitals have offered 4 percent pay raises in each of two years.

Health benefit, staffing and other issues are also on the table.

Negotiations resumed this morning after a battle of media statements following Friday's talks. The hospitals on Saturday released a statement criticizing the union for allegedly telling reporters Friday that "talks had collapsed."

The statement went on to say, in part:

" . . . the hospitals continue to look for a rapid and fair resolution that will keep our nurses' salaries among the highest in the Bay Area while ensuring that nursing salaries do not impact our ability to focus resources on our patients. It would be reckless for the hospitals to meet CRONA's exorbitant salary demands."

CRONA responded with a statement today that alleged the hospitals "have given the media some misleading numbers" about nurses' salaries.

"It appears the hospital is trying to break our union," the CRONA statement continued. "In looking back over two months of stonewalling tactics, one also has to ask if Stanford has been negotiating in good faith."

Hospital spokeswoman Melodie Jackson said before talks began today that when bargaining ended Friday, "CRONA was in the process of putting together a (new) package." That was the new salary request made at this morning's session.

"Hospital negotiators were waiting for their proposal," she added. Friday's session was the first time the two sides had met with the mediator since the strike began June 7.

Since the strike began June 7, the hospitals have been staffed by nursing managers and about 500 replacement nurses.

Stanford Hospital today was operating at full, pre-strike occupancy and Packard Hospital was at 80 percent of pre-strike occupancy.

Packard Hospital transferred some patients to other hospitals when the strike began, and both hospitals postponed some elective surgeries and elective admissions last week.

--Don Kazak