Uploaded: Tuesday, July 25, 2000 10:30 AM

Settlement proposed in nurses' strike

Federal mediator proposes terms for new contract

by Don Kazak

The seven-week-old nurses' strike at Stanford may soon be over.

A federal mediator has proposed settlement terms for a new contract which the nurses' union will take to its membership to vote on Thursday.

The two sides had a marathon negotiating session nearly a week ago that lasted for 18 hours.

Terms of the proposed settlement will not be disclosed until the nurses vote on the settlement.

"The federal mediator has presented a proposed settlement which will resolve all issues," said Ben Drew, spokesman for the hospitals. "Our hopes are that we can resolve the strike."

"I don't know what to expect," said Kim Griffin of the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA). "Some people will be happy to go back to work, and some may still be angry at the institution."

More than 1,700 nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals walked off the job June 7 after failing to reach agreement with hospital officials on a new contract.

The hospitals hired about 500 replacement nurses to replace the CRONA nurses, about 40 of whom went back to work at the two hospitals despite the strike and may face fines from the union once the strike is resolved.

Because of a nursing shortage at Bay Area hospitals, many CRONA nurses went to work temporarily at other hospitals.

Issues in the strike included pay, staffing and health benefits. The hospitals had been offering 8 percent in pay raises over two years, while CRONA had been asking for 15 percent over two years.

Stanford Hospital has been operating with its normal census of inpatients, while Packard Hospital has been at 70-80 percent of normal census, Drew said.

While the proposed settlement terms are not being disclosed, Drew said June 28 that the hospitals' offer of 8 percent over two years would be the final position. "No new offer is forthcoming," he said at the time.

The strike included some early morning confrontations between picketing nurses and hospital security guards at the Stanford Hospital loading dock. The nurses prevented union truck drivers from making supply deliveries on at least two occasions, and police were called out both times.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, also sent a letter to hospital administrators in late June, urging them to find a way to complete negotiations and end the work stoppage.

Eshoo's letter also requested that the hospitals be careful about maintaining safe patient-to-nurse ratios. Staffing issues, including overtime hours, is one area that was under negotiation.

When the nurses walked off the job seven weeks ago, CRONA nurses kept working that day in the Packard Hospital pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, where not enough replacement nurses showed up. The hospital later formally requested that the CRONA nurses continue working at those units until enough replacement nurses could be found.

The hospitals used more than one nursing agency, but the replacement nurses largely came from the Denver-based U.S. Nursing Corp.

In the first days of the strike, Packard Hospital transferred three dozen child patients to other hospitals, and Stanford Hospital postponed some elective surgeries in the first week of the strike.