Sharp nurses could strike on Nov. 28
SAN DIEGO — Nurses at Sharp Healthcare facilities in San Diego County announced Thursday that they plan to go on a three-day strike Nov. 28.
The nurses said they intend to return to work on Dec. 1. Their union delivered a required 10-day notice to the hospital chain’s management a week after 98 percent of around 2,200 Sharp nurses in the region who cast ballots voted to reject the company’s final offer.
Sharp officials said they have contracted with a firm to provide trained nurses during the walkout.
“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 Healthcare.
“At this time, caring for our patients is our top priority and we have taken the necessary steps to ensure we will have adequate staffing levels with excellent nurses at all times during their walkout,” he said.
Sharp previously offered to hike base pay by 16 to 26 percent over a three-year period, with nearly half implemented in the first year, according to management.
The union contends low pay has caused a high employee turnover rate at Sharp.
“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.
Gross said the union has pushed for “unrealistic” salary levels and a requirement that all nurses had to pay union dues.
According to Sharp, a report from the California Hospital Association found the chain’s 2015 nurse full- and part-time nursing turnover rate was 8.4 percent, the lowest in San Diego County — and that this year’s numbers were about the same.
The difference stems from the union counting per-diem nurses, who always have a high turnover rate. Per-diem nurses are not tracked in the CHA figures.
Sharp hopes to resolve the dispute before a walkout occurs, Gross said. If not, the company has a contract in place for replacement nurses, who would work five days, not just three, he said.