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Sharp Nurses Call Off Planned Strike

Photo by 10NEWS

Nurses for Sharp HealthCare rally at the San Diego Convention Center amid contract negotiations with the company, Oct. 6, 2016.

A planned three-day strike of more than 3,000 Sharp HealthCare nurses that was initially scheduled to begin Monday has been called off, at least for now.

Members of the Sharp Professional Nurses Network/United Nurses Associations of California and their employer reached a tentative agreement Sunday on some matters pertaining to union membership.

Current non-represented employees will continue to have the option of whether to pay union dues. New hires will be required to be dues-paying union members within 30 days of their employment, although after 90 days they will have a five-day window in which to decide if they wish to continue membership, according to Sharp.

Sharp did not agree to a so-called closed shop in which union membership is required for new or continued employment.

Sharp nurses withdrew their strike notice Sunday. Included in the tentative agreements was a provision that the union would not call another strike prior to Jan. 1, according to Sharp.

Union representatives and Sharp management plan to continue negotiating Tuesday, according to a union statement.

"There has been significant movement on some of the important issues," union spokesman Jeff Rogers said. "But there's more to be done about the major issue, which is the recruitment and retention of well-trained and experienced nurses."

The nurses and their union leaders allege that Sharp pays comparatively low wages, creating high turnover when employees leave for better pay at other hospitals. Sharp, however, contends that the nurses have inflated the numbers by counting per-diem nurses.

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.

Last month, 98 percent of nurses who cast ballots rejected Sharp's final contract offer, which included a base pay hike of 16 to 26 percent over a three-year period, with almost half implemented in the first year. The vote authorized their union to call the strike.

Union President Christina Magnusen said in a previous statement that at most, only about a quarter of nurses could get that raise.

"Some nurses could actually see pay cuts under that proposal and raises gained one year could be taken away the next," Magnusen said. "Clearly, it's not going to recruit and retain strong nurses."

Sharp is on track to lose 700 nurses this year, up from 605 last year and 514 in 2014, according to Magnusen.

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