Nurse strike costs California county $1.5M

Riverside County in California spent $1.5 million to prepare for a three-day nurse strike that took place last week, reports The Press-Enterprise.

The money was spent on replacement nurses when Service Employees International Union Local 721 members walked off the job. SEIU represents more than 7,000 Riverside County workers.

Union members last week picketed Moreno Valley, Calif.-based Riverside University Health System – Medical Center and marched to Riverside County headquarters, according to the report. Thousands of striking Riverside County workers returned to work Sept. 8.

SEIU said in a news release its members went on strike regarding what they consider unfair labor practices. The union alleges Riverside County and failed "to provide information critical to our ability to bargain effectively, including ignoring our multiple information requests on their financial dealings with Wells Fargo and European consulting giant KPMG." About 1,000 union members whose jobs Riverside County deemed essential to patient care did not strike per a court order, according to the report.

However, Riverside County spokesperson Ray Smith told The Press-Enterprise the county "had little option" as far as hiring replacement nurses "because of the short strike notice and how close the court order came to the beginning of the strike, which made it more difficult to notify employees who were prohibited from striking.

"While the court order provided some relief to the medical center, it did not provide for full staffing to meet state nursing ratios nor did it account for any increase in patient census," Mr. Smith said.

" … But by taking these steps, the county made absolutely sure that patient care and safety were preserved," he added. "Importantly, the strike had no significant impact on county operations or public services, health or safety. During the strike, the California Department of Public Health surveyed the medical center’s operations and made no regulatory findings about operations."

Now Riverside County continues to prepare for possible future strikes. The Press-Enterprise reports Riverside County board members have given the OK to allow the county to spend up to $7 million — minus the $1.5 million — for private company Nurse Bridge Consultants to provide replacement staff in the event of a future strike. The company also provided staff during the last strike.


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