Providence Tarzana workers set to strike Aug. 16

Kelly Gooch -

More than 500 unionized workers at Providence Tarzana (Calif.) Medical Center plan to strike Aug. 16 over wages, staffing and what they say are unfair labor practices.

The workers, who are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, have been in contract negotiations with management for nine months. They include nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and medical technicians.

In a prepared statement, union officials said workers seek wages that are in line with the cost of living, as well as an end to the frequent cancellation of shifts that they contend has resulted in staffing issues, particularly among nursing assistants.

"We can't provide quality patient care if we don't have enough caregivers," said Denise Cruz, a longtime nursing assistant at Providence Tarzana. "And the hospital won't be able to retain quality workers if we can't make enough to help support our families."

Providence Tarzana officials did not specifically address the union's claims, but they did note recognition for quality by U.S. News & World Report.

Overall, they said they were surprised and disappointed by the union's plans.

"Negotiations have been continuing at a steady pace, with several bargaining sessions scheduled this month. Hospital officials are disappointed the union has chosen this option, as it is costly and disruptive," they told Becker's Hospital Review in a statement.

Providence Tarzana has strike contingency plans, which include employing temporary staff to cover the shifts of caregivers who walk off the job. Due to a five-day minimum term that must be guaranteed to these temporary workers, striking caregivers will not be able to return to work until the hospital completes its commitment to the temporary staffing agency, hospital officials said. They said caregivers who decide not to strike and have notified their supervisors of their intention to work their scheduled shifts will be able to do their jobs as scheduled.

"Providence respects every employee's right to choose to be represented by a union and has been negotiating with the NUHW in good faith," hospital officials concluded. "The hospital's goal is to develop an agreement that benefits employees, as well as the community. There are proposals on the table that are fair and competitive, and that deserve more consideration. Hospital officials are eager to get back to bargaining and engaging in constructive discussion with the union."



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