Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hundreds of Oakland nurses strike against health care cuts

Nurses in multi-colored scrubs lined the streets in front of Children's Hospital Oakland Tuesday, striking against what they say is a proposed cut in their health care benefits. Passing cars, BART trains and fire engines honked in support of the hospital's nearly 800 registered nurses as they began a three-day strike led by the California Nurses Association (CNA). The hospital will continue operating with over 100 replacement nurses until the strike is scheduled to end Friday morning.

Negotiators for the hospital and nurses' union have been unable to agree on a new contract since May 19, and have been operating with a temporary contract since July. Both sides signed off on a one-year wage freeze, but talks broke down in September when hospital representatives insisted on restructuring health care options to include an employee contribution of 15 percent toward their health care plan. According to Nato Green, spokesperson for the nurses' union, that would be one of the highest employee contribution rates of any Bay Area hospital.

Under the latest health care plan proposed by the hospital, nurses would pay up to $311 per month in premiums for a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan. Around 60 percent of the hospital's nurses currently pay no premiums for the same PPO plan. The hospital would also offer two employer-paid health care options, but each either provides a lower level of coverage or would require employees to change providers. The CNA announced the strike on October 1.

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